Friday, 27 April 2012

Penistone Church 2-3 Worksop Town

Sheffield and Hallamshire Senior cup semi final.

A good old fashioned cup tie on a cold wet night in the north of Sheffield. This was the biggest night for Penistone Church in many a year. They play their football in the Sheffield senior league. Their opponents Worksop Town are 5 steps higher in the Evo Stick premier division. On paper this should have been a one sided match but Church matched their lofty opponents all the way and in the end were unfortunate not to take the tie into extra time.
We have had nothing but rain weather wise for the past couple of weeks, so we were relieved that the game was given the go ahead. We arrived in good time and got parked up at the ground. From there it was a quick 5 minute walk to the Dolphin chip shop for pre match nourishment. I went for the standard fish and chips and very nice it was too. Thankfully it wasn't raining at this point so we could eat our fodder without fear of it getting wet and being ruined.

As it tonight's game was a county cup match an entrance fee of £3 was charged, with a further £1 for the programme. I am not sure if they normally charge or issue programmes for league matches but i know all clubs have to charge for County cup competitions. The ground is of a very good standard for the league it is in and puts several CML clubs to shame. There is a decent sized covered standing area down on touchline and hard standing behind the goal at the end of the ground where you enter. We headed for the clubhouse for a brew (50p) which wasn't one of the best we have had this season if i am honest. There were quite a few tigers fans when we got there and a bit later on another coach load arrived. The homeside were not without support to however and it was good to see that the locals had turned out to support Penistone who (according to the programme) were playing in there first senior cup semi final for over 50 years. The final is played at Hillsborough, home of Sheffield Wednesday, so this game really was a once in a lifetime opportunity for Church players to play at the famous old ground.
Only a couple of familiar faces on show tonight, and both in the Worksop line up. Winger/Striker Owain Warlow who came through the ranks at Sincil Bank and played a few games under John Schofield and Peter Jackson started on the left, and in goal for the tigers tonight was Mario Ziccardi, who played for Lincoln United, Grantham, and Stamford.
Church weren't phased by their higher league opponents and really had a go at the tigers who at times looked rattled. The pitch was quite heavy which wasn't helping either side pass the ball around much which helped the hosts. Worksop had more chances, but Church were working very hard to close them down and not let them settle on the ball. What shots Worksop did get off were either blocked, went high, or went wide.
After spending quite a bit of time in their own  half, Church took the lead when Lewis Dickinson latched onto a clearance on the right hand side of the pitch, Ziccardi came out to try to close down the angle on but Dickinson rounded him and chipped it in from a tight angle. The home fans and players were delighted and you could tell how much it meant to them.
The tigers stated to step it up a gear after the goal and grabbed the equaliser on 40 minutes when Massiah McDonald struck home from 15 yards.
We stood behind the goal the Church were attacking in the second half, hoping to see a cup upset. It started to rain in the second half but both sides still tried to play football. Worksop did have much more of the ball and the pressure but were struggling to work the home keeper. On a night like this one thing that you really don't want is extra time, so it was a case of willing anybody to score. On 78 minutes Worksop took the lead when King headed home from close range. A couple of minutes later Worksop looked to have put the tie to bed when McDonald got his second of the night.
With 4 minutes left Church got back in the game following a goal mouth scramble and Worksop were all over the place. Church rallied and forced a couple of corners and had a goal bound shot blocked on the line.  Worksop were relieved  to hear the final whistle and will know that they had been in one hell of a game. However, through to the final they were and cup football is all about getting through.

Huge credit goes to Penistone Church both on and off the field. This was probably one of the biggest crowds that the club have had for a good few years and everything went really well. Both the bar and food booth was quite busy but everybody seemed to get served in good time. I must say a huge thank you to the nice lady behind the bar who managed to find a club pin badge for me (£3)
This club would be a great addition to the CML. The ground as i said earlier is far better that many in that league and if they play like they did tonight they would certainly ruffle a few feathers on the pitch. If you haven't been a visit is thoroughly recommend. You wont be disappointed.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Lincoln City 0-1 Hayes and Yeading

A few weeks ago this game looked like it was a must win. A 'winner survives' kind of game if you will. Over the past three months or so Bath, Kettering, and Darlington have become adrift at the bottom of the table thus taking up three of the four relegation places. Although Hayes and Yeading have spent much of the season in the bottom four they have clung onto the coat tails of the likes of Telford, Newport, Stockport, Alfreton, and Lincoln. At one stage Lincoln and Hayes were separated only on goal difference but since then City have shown their best form of the season with four wins in the last seven games giving us clear breathing space between ourselves and the dropzone. The club's Blue Square Premier status was confirmed after last weekends round of games with City's point at Champions Fleetwood Town, and Hayes and Yeading's defeat at home to Mansfield Town giving the Imps a eight point advantage over Hayes (in the last relegation place) with only six points left to play for.
 Although this was the Imps last home match of the season it really didn't feel like it. Partly this was due to the fact that we are used to the season finishing in May and partly due to the weather, which has been shit all week. This was the first time that all four of us had made a game since the away match at Grimsby. Doesn't time fly when you are having fun. Since then much has happened. Baz has been to Legoland, Felice has added another half dozen teams or so to his teams that he "looks out for their results" and Lee is all loved up, bless. As it was the last home match of the season we intended to go to our normal fish and chip shop on the highstreet. But just as we aproached Sincil Bank and got parked up, the heavens opened which meant there was no way were were getting out of the car, so we tuned into BBC Radio Lincolnshire. After about ten minutes or so the rain eased off so we made a dash for the Back of the Net chippy next door to the ground. The fare was reasonable and did the job. The clubshop was having its normal end of season sale with home shirts being flogged of for £10 given some of the performances this season, the club should be paying the fans £10 to wear them. We got into the ground at about 20 past two and was promptly greeted by a rumble of thunder. As it was the final home fixture it was time to present the players awards for the season, which were as follows:

 Young player of the season 
 as chosen by the manager
 Sam Smith

 Away player of the season 
chosen by the fans on the official coach's
 Joe Anyon

 Player of the season 
(voted by the fans)
 1st Joe Anyon 
2nd Josh Gowling
 3rd Alan Power

For those interested my vote went to Jean Arnaud. Congratulations to all the winners. The fact that the our Keeper Joe Anyon picked up two awards kind of tells you where most of the action in City games had been this season.

After the awards we had the normal crappy pre match announcements with the only real interesting news being that the club has arranged a home friendly with championship side Leicester City to be played on Saturday the 4th of August. Over the tannoy the DJ belted out Depeche modes 1981 hit  I just can't get enough . This brought a smile to Baz's face as it was one of the favourite tunes to strut his stuff to back in his heyday in the Porterhouse nightclub in Retford. Personally i much prefer the Saturdays version. And the video is pretty decent as well. 
Not totally sure that the song was fitting for the occasion though. After the home performances against the likes of Alfreton, Carshalton, Telford, and Kettering etc this season, i am pretty sure most Lincoln fans had had more than enough of the 2011/12 season. I know i bloody well have anyway.
Although Hayes and Yeading weren't technically down it wasn't looking good for them. Before kick off they were 6 points adrift of Newport County (who had a game in hand on them) Furthermore Newport's goal difference stood at -10 with Hayes and Yeading on -32. All this meant that they had to win both of their remaining games, hope that Newport lost all three of their matches, and overturn a 22 goal deficit. In short their staying up was pretty much a non starter. So remote was the chance in fact that even Felice wouldn't back it to happen.

Hayes' situation didnt put of their hard core of supporters from making the long journey up north to follow their side however. A hardy group of 44 fans did make the trip with many of them dressed in fancy dress from our view in the Stacey West we could see a ghost buster and Father Christmas in amongst the fans. This was great to say and i tip my hat to them. Real football supporters. 44 fans doesn't seem alot but its not bad when you consider the fact that they normally only get 300 odd for the "home" matches its actually quite decent.
Hayes army!
The match had a real end of season feel to it. I expected Hayes and Yeading to come out all guns blazing but they didn't. The visitors gave as good as they got in the first game between the two sides just a few weeks ago. The Imps triumphed 2-1 that night and it was was a turning point of the season. Lincoln looked the better side in the first half and strung together a few decent moves. As we are now safe and with an eye on next season David Holdsworth is experimenting with the line up a tad and gave on loan Nottingham Forest winger/striker Nialle Rodney a chance up front alongside Jefferson Louis. He hasn't had much football since joining us on loan and struggled a tad today. Plenty of effort there, that can not be faulted but for me he just looked a bit rusty. Joe Anyon in the Lincoln goal had very little to do bar the odd goal kick here and there. Steve Arnold in the Hayes and Yeading goal had a nightmare in the first game as it was his poor clearance that lead to the Imps first goal. Today though he had a much better day and pulled off a Gordan Banks style save from Jefferson Louis. As the game went on the chances dried up an the entertainment level nose dived. Pretty much all the crowd were happy when the HT whistle went. Newport County were 1-0 on Alfreton Town meaning that Hayes odds on staying up were even longer than they had been at 3 o clock.
As the game hadn't been the best it gave two of our group plenty of time to use there phones. Baz was sweating on the scores involving Sheffield Wednesday and Sheffield United, while Lee was busy firing off about 20 texts to somebody (Young love eh?) Barry was quite happy that the Owls had the lead and the Blades were losing.
The cue for halftime was also the cue for it to piss it down once again. At halftime the youth team did a lap of the ground proudly showing of the Midland Youth Cup that they had won last week when the beat Chesterfield 3-0 on their own turf. Take a bow lads. Its not often we get to see a trophy paraded around Sincil Bank.
The second half was from a Lincoln perspective, dire. We did make most of the running but got hit with a sucker punch on 60 minutes when Piero Mingolia prodded the ball home with Hayes first real attack of the game.
City had a couple of youth team players on the bench today and not long after the Hayes goal they were trusted into action. Conner Robinson replaced Rodney and Frazer Cob replaced  Danny Lloyd who had taken a knock on the ankle. Cob slotting into midfield and Robinson going up front. Both lads looked very lively and gave the team some much needed impetus. It was Robinson who looked the most dangerous player on the pitch and he created a couple of decent chances for himself. Hayes and Yeading were in full gamesmanship mode now and falling down all over the place and rolling around as if they had been pole axed.
Another ray of light appeared when Sam Smith came off the bench to play the last 13 minutes or so. We have badly missed Sam (in my opinion anyway) since he was injured against Southport back in January. Its safe to say that Baz isn't totally convinced of Smith's ability and isn't his biggest fan. Me being me decided to offer him a bet of £5 that if he is still here next season he will bag 20 goals for the Imps in 2012/13. He agreed to this bet. And thus hopefully by this time next season i will have £5 off him.
Get your money ready mate!
As the game wore on it looked more and more remote that the Imps would get back into the match. In a way this 90 minutes summed up Lincoln City's 2011/12 season: glimpses of quality to raise our hopes, but quickly crushed and ultimately disappointment. The only real moment of excitement came when former City midfielder Jamie Hand decided he had had enough of Robinson making him look a total twat and took it upon himself to boot the young lad up in the air. It was one of the worse challenges seen at the Bank this season and it was no surprise to everybody in the stadium (bar Hand himself) that the ref brandished the red card. This was Jamie Hand's second red card of the season at Sincil Bank as he also saw red when he played for Luton Town here just before Christmas. A player getting sent of for two different teams at Sincil Bank in a season. That can't have happened many time before, if at all.

In times gone by, good season or bad season, the fans have normally always tried to come onto the pitch after the last game of the season. But today nothing. Defeat was simply meet with a shrug of the shoulders and a sigh from the Imps fans still left in the ground. The past few years have been incredibly difficult for Lincoln City fans and i got the impression that the fans just wanted to leave the ground and consign the 2011/12 campaign to the history books. Without doubt this was the quietest end to a season i have witnessed in my years of watching City.

Elsewhere in the football world....

While the men's team where failing yet again Lincoln Ladies gained their first win of the WSL season with a great 1-0 away win at Bristol Academy. Carla Cantrell grabbing the goal just after halftime. Gainsborough Trinity need just a point form their last game of the season next week to secure a playoff spot in the Blue Square North playoffs. Retford United's home match was called off due to a waterlogged pitch thus meaning that the Badgers will have to play league games this Tuesday and Thursday before the big winner takes all showdown at Bridlington Town next Saturday. A game we will be at to hopefully see Retford win the League Championship.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Dronfield Town 2-1 Westella & Willerby

Unless you have had your head in the sand for the past week or so you will have realised its the Semi Finals of the Champions (Cough cough) League this week. It has pretty much dominated all the press and if you believe all the hype then there was no other football worth watching. What a load of bull.
A quick scan of the fixtures revealed another semi final. That being the Northern Semi Final of the Baris Central Midland League cup between  Dronfield Town and Westella and Willerby. As was fitting of a match of that magnitude, it was played at a neutral venue; that of the Harworth Colliery a mere 10 minutes drive from Retford. The prize for the winners? A place in the final against the winners of the Southern Semi Final played at Alfreton Town's Impact arena. As always a kebab was eaten as pre match nourishment. I had been looking forward to a good kebab since the disappointing effort in Blackpool on Thursday night. Baz had been tipped of about a good place to eat just down the road from the ground.

The kebab was very reasonably priced at £4.50. For an extra £1.50 you could add a coke and a portion of chips. I didn't go for this option but Baz did take advantage. The kebab was nice but i asked for chilli and mayo but they forgot the chilli. Never mind i still ate most of the thing (and half of Baz's chips)

We drove up to the ground and sat in the car munching our fodder. There was a game taking place on the outside pitch so we watched some of that. Some extreme hoppers would class the 20 mins or so we watched as another game and another ground but i wouldn't go in for all that. We ambled over to the entrance to the ground 5 minutes before kick off and paid our £3 entrance fee and an extra £1 for the programme.

We stood behind the Westella dugout for the first half and it was interesting watching and listening to their management team at work. All too often we hear managers just shout and bellow at match officials with little or no instructions for their side. So it was very refreshing to hear a management team support and encourage their troops and give clear tactical advice.
Although for the first 20 minutes or so it looked as of that advice was falling on ears as Dronfield dominated the game and took the lead when the Westella keeper failed to hold a shot and an attacker tucked in the rebound. This seemed to be the wake up call Westella needed as they started to take the game to Dronfield and were much the better side up till halftime. They deservedly equalised and that is how it stayed till halftime.

We retreated to the clubhouse at halftime for a very welcome brew that only cost 50p. On the tv screen Bayern Munich were leading Real Madrid 1-0 in the 1st leg of the Champions League Semi Final. I am not sure if the crowd in Munich knew the score from our semi final but if not they should have.
Next to us sat a table of local refs putting the world to rights. We ambled out to watch the second half about 5 minutes late but we didnt miss anything.
Westella made all the running in the second half, they created, and missed, several very good chances to put this semi final to bed. After another chance went begging the Westella and Willerby gaffer tuned round shock his head and said to us
"You can see whats going to happen now lads 2-1 to Dronfield"
And so it proved.
In the last minute the ball was bobbling about maybe 10 yards outside of the Westella box. An on rushing Dronfield player then blasted it and it went like a missile right into the bottom corner. A quality strike that would have grace a much higher level of football. It was a goal good enough to win any game as the old cliche goes but it was very very harsh on Westella and Willerby.
Good luck in the final guys.
This was a quality game (for this level of football) Both sides tried to play passing football on a difficult surface. Both management teams were also a credit to the game and CML Northern division. For the record (If anybodys cares, Bayern Munich won 2-1)
Can Dronfield make an "Impact" at Alfreton in the final? boom boom!

Monday, 16 April 2012

Fleetwood Town 2-2 Lincoln City

Ok i have to admit something at the start of this write up. I have a soft spot for Fleetwood Town FC. This is due to the fact that i visited a couple of seasons ago when on a short break to Blackpool and as a special present Mrs Ferret paid for us to enjoy the VIP Package. At the time the club were battling Southport for the Blue Square North Championship . Not only were they building on the pitch but work was being under taken off it to bringing the stadium up to league standard. The impressive Jim's bar is the best clubhouse i have visited on my travels over the last few years. On our visit all of the staff were very friendly and it was a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon our here's the story from the 4-2 win over the Viz Sponsored Blyth Spartans. Due to us purchasing those tickets we are on the club's members list and received a members card during last season.
Over the past couple of years Fleetwood's chairman has invested vast sums of cash into the club with the aim of achieving Football League status. The club's rise up the Leagues has been pretty remarkable. Only a mere seven years ago they were playing in the North West Counties League and playing Retford United in the FA Cup. In my write up from that game a couple of years ago i said how i could see the club obtaining Football League status in the next 5 years or so, and as it turns out they beat my prediction by a couple of seasons. One thing i certainly didn't predict was the fact that they would have the chance to gain promotion against Lincoln City.
Due to the fact that they have spent a fair bit of cash, some supporters of other clubs seem to be quite bitchy when it comes to Fleetwood. Yes they may have spent quite alot to get where they are but in my view they have done it with alot more class than the likes of Crawley and Rushden and Diamonds have done. Going back a few years Wigan outspent the rest of the lower leagues as they marched up the football pyramid and now everybody (bar me) seems to want them to stay up. Short memories some do have. Fans of other teams may pour scorn on Fleetwood but lets be honest, most of us would love a chairman like theirs who wants to invest in their club and build it at all levels. His investment makes our Chairman's input into Lincoln City look like mere chicken feed (Or should that be turkey feed)
Personally i would rather Fleetwood go up than sides like Wrexham and Luton who's fans seem to think they have a god given right to win promotion. The only problem with a Fleetwood promotion is that we miss out on a great away weekend in Blackpool. Lets hope that Southport don't win the playoffs.
Anyway enough about Fleetwood.

Its been a couple of years since i visited the fair town of Blackpool and on that occasion it was January so a fair bit of it was shut. I have always enjoyed Blackpool. I know some people think its tacky and run down but for me a weekend away is what you make of it. I  have some great memories of nights out there. My first trip here was the infamous trip to watch the Imps take on Blackpool in the 98/99 season (which we won!) and i have pretty much enjoyed the jaunt there since. I have often used Blackpool as a base for Imps away trips in the past with trips to Rochdale and Wrexham (both of which we lost). On my "List to do" is to stay here midweek for either an AFC Blackpool game or Blackpool Wren Rovers. This depends on holidays and cash so its very much in the "Watch this space" category for next season. There is also Squire Gate and AFC Fylde not to far away, but one at a time i think.
Blackpool seems to have undergone a bit of a regeneration since i was last here and the central area in front of the Tower certainly looks alot smarter Although you don't have to go far down the front to see that some areas are still quite tired looking. A new tram system has also recently been set up but as we were to find out later not all is as it seems with it. Unfortunately "Linkers" sports bar shut down long ago and the Crazy Scots bar was undergoing renovation work, but old favourites like the Counting house are still going strong. Its a bit if a tradition for me that whenever i am in Blackpool, it's the first pub that i visit.
The match was a Friday night fixture so our plan was for a night out on the town on the Thursday night then chill before the Imps game on the Friday then travel back home Saturday  morning.
I enjoy Thursday nights out in Blackpool much more than Friday and Saturday nights. There are enough folk out for it to be a good atmosphere but its not to rammed with Primark versions of TOWIE wannabes. You also get some pretty decent deals on drinks, which i am sure you will agree is always welcome. After heading out about 7ish and visiting a number of watering holes we ended up in Vodka Revolution where 6 shots cost a very reasonable £8 so we set about the task of sampling most of the shots on the menu. All of them were quite nice but i can thoroughly recommend the chilli shots. They have a real kick to them as you knock them back.
The only downside to the night came at the end of the night. For post drinking food i ordered a kebab and my other half got a pizza. What happened though was they prepared the kebab before the pizza was ready so the kebab was a tad on the cold side. Due to this i place this kebab from Flames at the bottom of the 2011/12 kebab table.

The Friday was spent chilling out and recovering form the previous night. The game was scheduled to kick off at 7.30pm. From Blackpool sea front you can either get the number 1 bus up to Fleetwood or you can get the tram. We decided on getting the bus from the stop outside the Hilton Hotel at about 5 o clock. As we waited the Lincoln City team bus pulled into the coach park at the hotel for what i assume was a pre match meal. I am sure that had they wandered along the seas front they could have found something cheaper but there you go. Once on the bus you want the stop near the Highbury fish and chip shop which was doing a brisk trade. I had read that away fans were not allowed into the social club next to the away turnstiles so we stayed on the bus and got off in town so we could have a few drinks and walked up to the ground.  The pubs in Fleetwood were certainly cheaper than the ones in Blackpool (by about £2 a round) and most had lots of pictures of fishing trawlers from years gone by. I had expected them to be packed with Fleetwood fans but maybe they had all decided to drink in the bars at the ground. Fleetwoods ground is a cashless stadium which means you have to get a ticket before you enter the ground, thankfully the away ticket office is slap bang next to the away turnstiles. Tonight's entrance was £15 for covered terracing.
 We still had plenty of time before kickoff so we went for a walk around the ground. One surprise for me was that despite large new stand they have built the clubshop is quite small. It seemed that it had been doing a roaring trade in scarves though as many punters were wearing rather new looking Fleetwood Town scarves. One or two street vendors were trying to flog red and white checked flags to punters (describing them as "Champions flags") but i didn't see anybody buying them.

As we got round to the away end again the Imps supporters bus had just pulled in with the normal assortment of "characters" on board. It goes without saying that they moaned about the same things they always do when they get to a new ground; having to queue for tickets, not being able to go in the clubhouse (stacks of pubs in Fleetwood guys come on) etc. The programmes had now arrived and were priced at a very reasonable £2.50. It was quite a decent read and proof that you can knock up a decent programme with a nice range of articles with interesting things and still sell it at £2.50 i can certainly think of one club that could do with a few more articles in the programme and less pictures to pad out the programme.
Upon entering the ground the first thing that i noticed was that City had only been allocated half of the stand behind the goal. This was a bit of a surprise given that Fleetwood's website had said we would receive all of the end behind the goal. Thankfully though the view was still pretty good. I can't really blame Fleetwood for giving us only half that end. It was the biggest night in the club's history and so it is only right that they get as many home fans in as possible. The only downside to this was the fact that the club had to hire some dodgy portaloos in for the away fans. For refreshment a burger bar had been hired but we had decided to eat in Blackpool after the match so the only thing a purchased was a cup of tea. It was very nice but at £1.50 it should have been!
As you stand in the away section you can't help but admire the large main stand to your right. In an age of Lego brick lookalike stadiums its great to see something different. The stand has replaced the area where we had the V.I.P meal last time we were here. Although the old stand was nice its not a patch on the new one as you can see from the pictures below.
The other three stands of the ground are pretty much the same as the last time i was here. The only difference was the large screen that had been erected to our left hand side. The Cod Army were filling up the home terrace opposite us and had a pretty impressive array of banners hung up. The "Ultras de Cod" being one of my favourites. One a table infront of the stand to our left sat the Conference championship trophy which was to be presented to the home club if they gained the three points tonight and thus wrapping up the Championship and promotion to the Football League. A win for City would have guaranteed survival in the Conference. A draw meant that both clubs would have to wait a little longer to get to their respective targets.

A City win however was a huge ask. Fleetwood have only lost three matches all season long and were unbeaten in 26 games. Their last league defeat came back in October. Before the game they had racked up an impressive 102 points. Given all this its hardly surprising that some bookmakers were offering up to 10/1 for a City win. Those odds could well have got bigger as City lost defender Tom Miller in the warm up meaning Karlton Watson got a rare start along side Josh Gowling in the heart of the defence.

Fleetwood could have wrapped the Championship up on Tuesday night but Wrexham spoilt the party with a 1-1 draw. The opening exchanges were fairly even but just as it looked as if the home side was building up a head of steam City look the lead out of nowhere when a smart move was finished off well by Jamie Talyor. Highbury was stunned as the Imps fans huddled in the corner went mad. I must admit i didn't expect the scoreline to stay the same for long so a took a picture of the scoreboard for old times sake.

I expected this to be a mere red rag to a bull but it was far from the case. Instead of Fleetwood taking the game to Lincoln we took control of the game and harried and pressured Fleetwood into mistakes and they couldnt get their passing game going. It got even better for City in the 20th minute when Jefferson Louis headed in at the back post to give the Imps a 2-0 lead. Were Fleetwood about to crumble infront of the TV cameras and blow their big night?
It was at this point Fleetwood woke up and realised they were in a game here and were 0-2 down at home to Lincoln City in front of the nation live on TV. They started to pen the Imps back and forced a few corners and created several half chances. As they got more and more on top, i got the feeling that if City were to get anything out of this game we would have to get to halftime with the two goal lead intact. Then on the stroke of halftime Fleetwood were back in the game. Anyon made a smart save but the rebound fell to Jamie Vardy who has had already scored 32 goals this season. Needless to say that goal number 33 arrived as he blasted the ball high into the roof of the net. Cue wild celebrations from the Fleetwood fans and a few bars of the Captain Pugwash theme blasted out of the PA system.
 HT 1-2
A mere four minutes into the second half and the scores were level when Vardy collected the ball and coolly beat Anyon as he came out to try and cut the angle down. Again the noise levels reached fever pitch as the home fans sensed blood. It was at this point that I saw a 4-2 defeat and an early tram ride back to Blackpool beckoning. But to our immense credit Lincoln dug in and battled really well. Much of the game was spent in the Lincoln half but City kept getting blocks in and clearing their lines.
Lincoln did have a couple of late chances to win the game late on through breakaways by Jake Sheridan and Louis but in the main it was the hosts who controlled the game. As the crowd grew restless they started to appeal for anything and everything going. At the end of the 90mins the ref added a further 5 minutes to be played and i got a  horrible feeling we were going to let in a last minute goal and give the TV company showing the game the fairytale ending they would so have liked.
FT 2-2
Over the past few years we have seen some really feeble away performances from the Imps but today they were immense; they stood up to the huge challenge and came through it with flying colours. As the Fleetwood players and fans trudged off the Imps entire squad went into the traditional post match huddle in the centre of the pitch. Then they came over the applaud the City faithful who were brilliant all night long. Although it was only a point it felt like so much more, and after the showings at the likes of Barrow and Braintree etc, it reminded us of why we go to away games.

After the game we decided to head back on the tram which in hindsight was a bit of a boo boo. As we got to the nearest tram stop we discovered that it was shut that meant a walk down to the next one. Thankfully this one was open. The new tram system does seem to be half baked at the moment and has attracted plenty of criticism in the local press. We overheard a couple of locals saying how much of a joke the new system was, so its not just us away fans who were struggling to work out fares and which stops are open etc.

We decided to celebrate our point against the Cod Army with a nice late night portion of fish and chips.  There was fish shop just round the corner from the hotel so we piled in there and very nice they were too. The  fish was fried there and then and served with plenty of chips, all this for under 4 quid! You really can't go wrong can you?
I know this blog has been a bit longer than normal but this was no normal away day/weekend. I hope you have enjoyed it and i haven't bored you all too much. As an ending note i have included a picture for all you guys out there who like to visit Blackpool to eye up the birds. Enjoy. :-)

Selected Saturday results.

Grimsby Town 2-2 Wrexham
Fleetwood Town are confirmed as Conference champions

Hayes and Yeading 1-3 Mansfield Town
Lincoln Citys status in the BSP is confirmed for the 2012/13 season

Congratulations Fleetwood Town FC

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Midland Youth Cup winners 2012

Lincoln City 
Chesterfield 0-3 Lincoln City 

  No need for a write up. The picture says it all. Great game,performance and result. The best £3 i have spent all season.  Well done to all the lads and manager Grant Brown. Its been tough being a Lincoln City fan for the past few years but this will put a smile on or faces for a while. 
Now its of to bed then its onwards to Champions elect Fleetwood Town and a few nights in Blackpool.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

A day out in West Yorkshire

A nice couple of games lined up today. They formed the last two games of day 2 of the NCEL groundhop. As this was the Easter weekend and part of the A1 Motorway was shut. We decided to leave a bit earlier so as to arrive in good time at our first destination. As luck would have it, the traffic was quite light and we arrived with well over an hour to go till kick off. Better to be safe than sorry as they say. The journey went even quicker thanks to the dub Reggae banging out from the car stereo system.

  Liversedge 0-1 Arnold Town.

Liversedge have, in my view, one the of the most scenic grounds in the NCEL leagues (Not saying much i know but there you go) Although the approach to the stadium is little more than a dirt track that is only really wide enough to fit on car at a time down. There appeared to be two car parks with one for the "advance ticket holders" and one for the rest of society. As were were the first car to arrive we got directed right to the far corner of the car park which meant in all likely hood that  we would be one of the last to leave at the end of the game.
The ground is in a natural bowl so as you enter the turnstile block you get a good view over the whole stadium. Today admission was a bargain £5 which included a rather smart matchday programme. As a quick   look around the ground to take a few pictures we retreated to the warmth of the club house for a few pints before the match kicked off. The clubhouse was reasonably priced with two pints of Smooth and a pint of Fosters coming in at £7.70. Half of the clubhouse is segregated for the Sponsors and officials which makes the clubhouse quite small but its well decorated with pennants and old team pictures etc. Arnold tend to have a decent away support and quite a few were in the bar before the normal array of characters that make up the groundhopping community came ambling in for their third game of the day, most of them armed with their 3 year old carrier bags, note pads, and flasks.

I have seen Arnold play twice before today this season and both away from home (At Lincoln Moorlands Railway and Stavely MW) They were unlucky not to take all three points in Lincoln and pretty much took Stavely to the cleaners on their own pitch, which takes some doing. On paper it looked like an end of season match with nothing for either side to play for as both sides were in midtable with no chance of going up or down. Although i wasn't expecting a huge amount from the game i didn't expect it to be quite as bad as it turned out.

With the ground being in a bowl its pretty easy to get a decent view of the action. We stood near the corner at the end of the ground near to the snap hut and the executive entrance to the ground. As the crowd for this game was alot bigger than normal it would have been understandable if the players suffered from a little stage fright. As it was, neither side took control of the game and both struggled to string 3 passes together. Arnold created slightly more chances with the home keeper more happy to punch the ball away than try to catch it. In fairness to him it was raining a slight drizzle so maybe that's why he took this approach.

Whatever his reasoning his luck ran out a couple of minutes before halftime when he parried a long range shot which Arnold's Tyrone Burton slotted home from the rebound.
Sometimes when you get a goal late in the first half it opens the game up for the second half but not in this case. The only real action of note came when Liversedge missed an absolute sitter when one of their players headed over with the goal completely at his mercy from about 6 inches out. That pretty much summed up the whole match. Arnold held out pretty comfortably for the win which means the Eagles have taken 7 points from 9 in the games i have seen them play in this season.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Lincoln ladies 2-2 Birmingham City Ladies

The last couple of weeks have seen the Lady Imps in Cup action. Today was the start of the highly anticipated  League campaign. The last week or so has been a busy one for all the teams in the League as the women's game has received a decent amount of coverage and debate over the last week or so. I do get the feeling that the women's game is certainly on the up and interest is growing. Although coverage of the women's game isn't anywhere near that of what the men's receives, it is getting better. And with a few more games like this i am sure that Lincoln Ladies crowds will continue to grow.
Birmingham finished as runners up to Arsenal last season and have got off to a flyer this time around having won two matches in the FA Cup and one in the Continental cup. So basically they are no mugs. However Lincoln's form has also been good as the girls recorded a good 2-1 away win at Chelsea in their last game. Arriving at the ground it was good to see quite a few people around even though it was a good 45 minutes or so before the kick off.  The matchday programme was on sale for £2.50 included with the programme was a copy of the latest issue of She Kicks, the women's football magazine which is a decent read and covered all aspects of the women's game. The club merchandising department have been busy it the last couple of weeks with new scarves also on sale. The girls were also playing in the new home strip for the first time. Its a bit different to the last couple of home shirt as it is a white shirt with a  red and  black horizontal strip across the top. As a life long Inter fan i don't normally like anything red, black, and white but i must say that it is a rather smart outfit. Hopefully i will purchase one, but when i do it will be sods law that the first thing i will do will be to spill beer down it before a game, thus looking like a total prat for the rest of the day.

First port of call as always was the tea stall for a brew. As we were doing that the Lincoln players were going through a series of  gruelling looking exercises with some large elastic bands. Then followed a series of sprints and ball work. As we supped our brew a charming young lady came round asking us if we wanted to sign up to a free WSL loyalty card. Basically every home league match you attend you get your card stamped and you receive various freebies. As if this wasn't good enough the girl taking them round was a fellow Panthers fan (she spotted my cap) Its always nice to chat to a fellow fan of Nottingham's most successful sports side. Its an exciting time for us Panthers fans as today we were in the playoff final and on the verge of another double which means we have won more in the last two years than Forest and Notts County have in about 15 seasons combined, but going back to the loyalty card its great to see the League being pro active with stuff like this and encouraging more spectators to attend regularly.

We viewed the first half of the game from the end that the Imps were attacking. Blues were fast out of the blocks and had their hosts on the back foot early on. The last time i watched the Imps Laura Alleway was a rock at the back for the Imps but she was unavailable today and it looked as if they were missing her early on. Lincoln weathered the early storm and came back into the game, with Remi Allen making a couple of good runs from midfield. Which were ended by some cynical Birmingham defending. Lincoln did force a couple of corners which resulted in Jess Clarke going close.
Lincoln did take the lead in the 10th minute with an excellent goal from Precious Hamilton when she lobbed the keeper from the edge of the box. The goal gave the game even more intensity which resulted in some heavy challenges flying in. Blues were really struggling to deal with Jess Clarke's pace and so resorted to chopping her down at every opportunity.
Precious Hamilton. Scorer of the Lady Imps first goal.

There was a huge let off for the Imps on the half hour when Birmingham attacked and unleashed a shot from about 25 yards which was swirling and dipping. Hobbs in the Lincoln goal parried it out to a Birmingham attacker who thankfully managed to blast the ball out of the ground from about 3 yards out.  
Blues did equalise though shortly after, when a ball from the right was headed in by Kaz Carney. Lincoln were rattled by this and had Hobbs to thank for keeping the scores level when she tipped over a effort from Williams. Thankfully they wasted the following corner by curling it straight out of play. It was the last chance of the first half. Lincoln were playing the better football of the two sides with Birmingham being more direct.
The ref was letting quite a few heavy challenges go unpunished which was playing into the visitors hands.
 HT 1-1

Lincoln retook the lead just after halftime when Clarke was brought down in the box by Kerys Harrop who was having a bit of a mare up against Jess all day. Midfield dynamo Remi Allen step up and converted the penalty. All of a sudden Lincoln had got their spark back and were dictating the game. They could have gone further infront when Hamilton on the counter fired a cross in for the on rushing Lucy Staniforth to direct her diving header wide and get her nice new shiny white shirt covered in muck in the process.
The ref was starting to lose control of the game and kept his cards in his pocket when perhaps a yellow or two would have calmed the game down a bit as some of the Birmingham tackling was a little over the top. Birmingham got their second goal on 68 minutes through a great finish by Eniola Aluko which gave Hobbs no chance. Although it was a good finish Lincoln did have a couple of chances to clear the ball before she stuck it in the back of the net. The move first started form a long clearance from the Blues half so i think the Lady Imps management will feel the goal could have been avoided.

After that the game kind of petered out. Lincoln kept getting free kicks but didn't really do anything with them. The best chance to win the game fell to the visitors but Hobbs saved well from Aluko a minute or two before time.
 FT 2-2

On the face of it a draw at home to the a side like Birmingham isn't to bad a result although after taking the lead twice the Lady Imps will be disappointed not to have taken the points by giving Blues two sloppy goals. On the plus side though Lincoln really stood up to them and kept playing their football despite the visitors physical approach to the game. Lincoln have a very young side but Casey Stoney lead them brilliantly and kept a lid on things. Lincoln certainly created much more than we did against Arsenal although without Alleways height they didn't look quite as deadly at corners. Remi Allen thoroughly deserved her Lady of the Match award for her battling in midfield. In my view all of the girls played well but special mentions also go to Clarke and Hobbs.
Off the field the day was a success as well with a decent crowd of 310 watching the game. It was also pleasing to see there was a good mixture of fans young and old. Quite a few of the youngsters from the Club's centre of excellence were on duty helping out here and there. As the season goes on and word gets out how good this Lincoln side is (and how good the cups of tea are) i am sure the crowds will rise even more.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Pittsburgh Steelers 2012 season.

The NFL season may be a good while away yet but we do know which sides the Pittsburgh Steelers will be locking horns with in the 2012 season. We don't have dates yet, just who we will be facing. This year the AFC North matches up against the NFC East in the inter-conference which not only contains our state rivals the Philadelphia Eagles, but also the reigning Superbowl Champions the New York Giants. The match up with the Giants only happens every 4 years, so this gives myself and Gav the chance to win up to £20 off each other; our normal bet on whose side gets further in the season, and £10 on the match between the two sides. All good stuff as they say.
Genuine New York Beer mat.

Sides the Steelers will face at home.

 Cleveland Browns 
Baltimore Ravens 
Cincinnati Bengals
 Philadelphia Eagles 
New York Jets 
Washington Redskins 
San Diego Chargers
  Kansas City Chiefs

Steelers away fixtures

Cleveland Browns
Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals
Oakland Raiders
Tennessee Titans
New York Giants
Dallas Cowboys
Denver Broncos

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Stacey West stand raver!

My video of the week  comes from City's weekend win against Tamworth. Watch the guy in the braces celebrating City's 3rd goal from the penalty spot.
And before you ask no it isn't Baz dancing the jig! Although i will admit it does look like him!

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Lincoln City 4-0 Tamworth

Saturday the 18th of October 2011.
 Tamworth 4-0 Lincoln City

 Saturday 31st March 2012. 
Lincoln City 4-0 Tamworth .

 Funny old game isn't it?

 The Imps recorded a third win on the trot yesterday against a very poor Tamworth side who could well get dragged into the relegation dogfight if they don't buck their ideas up. This was also a very important win for the Imps as Newport, Stockport, and Hayes and Yeading also all won. Although Darlington, Kettering and, Bath all failed to win and all three are a little behind the bunch of teams above them. Telford who drew 3-3 with Darlington are also well in the mix.
 City now have a 5 point gap to the drop zone, a much better goal difference than Hayes and Yeading and,  have a game hand; that game in hand being against midtable Cambridge United this coming Tuesday night. 8 days ago City were level on points with Hayes so it just shows how important the last week has been for the Imps. There is still a hell of a lot of work to do over the remaining seven games but the table looks alot better than it did just over a week ago. I was billy-no-mates today as Baz had some work on, and Felice was away in France so it was a trip on the train for yours truly. In a way this made a nice change as it meant i could go into the town before the game and sink a few pints before the match. The weather has been fantastic this past week but true to form it cooled down just in time for footie at the weekend thus depriving me of beer garden weather before football. I arrived in the fair city of Lincoln at just gone 12 so headed into town for some fish and chips for breakfast/lunch from the chip shop near to the bus station (£4.80 7/10)
 I haven't been up to the top end of town for a while so i headed for the Duke of Wellington pub only to find it shut. I have no idea when it shut, but shut it is. This didn't put me off to much as i just went over the road to the Jolly brewers which strikes me as a student/real ale twats type of pub. Its actually quite good with interesting decor. While i was in there some guy came in, complete with backpack, and ordered a half pint of one of the hand pulls, scribbled down a few notes in a note book then left so i assume the pub must be listed in some good pub guide or something.
After a few pints i ambled down to the Bank and consumed a pint in the Centre spot. There were a few Tamworth fans milling around but the striking thing about their fan base was that it seemed to be made up exclusively of folk over the age of 45. Earlier in the season they had a plum tie in the FA Cup away at Everton but it looked like very few of the fans that were at Everton that day had made the trip to the Bank today. While the Imps fans were hardly out in force, the crowd was about 300 up on the previous home game which was pleasing to see and just goes to show what a couple of wins on the trot can do.

Lincoln suffered their largest defeat of the season back in October when we were beaten 4-0 in what was to be Steve Tilson's final game in charge. Thankfully i missed it as i was watching Dunkirk FC followed by the Nottingham Panthers that day. The other Retford Imps were however present to see our biggest defeat of the season. Ironically i was the only one present to witness our largest win of the season. Unlucky fellas.

One of the reasons behind City's recent upturn in fortunes has been the  signing of central defender Tom Miller. Not only has he been a calming influence at the back along side Gowling, and got the winning goal on Tuesday night, but his long throws have added a new dimension to City's attack. And it was thanks to one off these throws that City look the lead in the 8th minute. His long throw wasn't dealt with by the Tamworth back line allowed thus Peter Bore to nip in and finish well from eight yards out. Normally when a side goes a goal down you get a response but all the "Lambs" could muster were a couple of feeble long range efforts.
Pacquette was subbed early in the game due to an injury but it did little to knock City out of their stride.
The second goal in the 29th minute again came from a long throw. The keeper Hedge made a real pigs ear of dealing with it and Lamb's player Danny Thomas, under huge pressure from Gowling, diverted the ball into his own net.
With a two goal lead after 29 minutes the home fans were in great voice although their reluctance to chant the managers name showed that he still has a way to go to win over some sections of the home faithful. City saw out the rest of the half easy enough and it looked like Tamworth had given up all hope of getting anything out of the game.
HT 2-0
Lincoln killed of any chance of a Tamworth fightback just after half time with the third goal arriving via the penalty spot in the 48th minute. Gowling up from the back was dragged to the ground by Charlie Collins as the City defender tried to turn. The ref pointed to the spot and Alan Power slammed the ball into the roof of the net despite the poor gamesmanship from the Tamworth players. From then on the game petered out, although Lincoln did create the better chances.  The Tamworth centre back pairing of Francis and Oji were particularly poor all game and you always felt that City were in with a chance of adding to the score with this pair of clowns on the pitch. Lincoln added the fourth goal late on when a good counter attacking move saw Powers pass, that was intended for Danny Lloyd, intercepted by the hapless Thomas who managed to divert the ball past his own keeper for his second own goal of the game.
FT 4-0

Its not very often that Lincoln win 4-0 in fact i can't remember the last time that we did win 4-0 at the Bank. As i said earlier there is still a hell of alot of work to do before we are safe but all us Imps can enjoy this victory. Cambridge will be a tougher game but they are another side with little to play for so its decent chance for the Imps to pick up a point if not three. Four wins on the trot? Now that really would be something. I am sure that this was a one off performance for Tamworth. They wouldn't be where they are in the table and had a decent cup run if they had played this badly all season. But it does beg the question as to how bad were City when we played down at the Lambs back in October. I will have to ask the guys who went but we must have been as awful as Tamworth were today, if not more so.

I had more good news later in the evening. It's playoff time in British Ice Hockey and the Nottingham Panthers had been drawn to play the Braehead Clan over two legs. Braehead had won the first leg 3-0 in Glasgow Tuesday night leaving the Panthers in a bit of an awkward spot. The Panthers however put things right in the second leg and recorded a 5-1 win in overtime to advance to the Playoff finals weekend in Nottingham next weekend.
Two big wins in a day. I could get use to this i could. :-)