Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Newark Town 1-4 Lincoln City

The Lincoln City pre season Nottinghamshire tour rumbled on tonight with a stop off in Collingham to play Central Midlands north side Newark Town. Or the "peaceful warriors" as they are known as. Although its still very early into the season Baz and myself have already seen Newark play this season when they went down 3-0 at Retford United in what was a pretty dull game hence the lack of a blog entry for that match. Tonight again saw the Imps split up the squad with half coming here and the other half travelling over to Skegness to face Skegness United. Newark play at step seven in the pyramid while United aren't even in it and play their football in the Lincolnshire league. So with that in mind i thought that the majority of the first team squad would be here at Newark Town.
Newark charged their standard league price which is £3 so that has to be viewed as a bargain and they were rewarded with a good turn out from the City faithful with over 300 being in attendance. Whenever i have  visited Newark they have always done a decent programme and thankfully tonight was no exception, as Mr Richard Lane had come up trumps again.. Priced at £1 it was easily one of the better pre season programmes i have seen in recent years. So a big hat tip to the editor.
Newark's ground may be basic but it's perfectly adequate for the Central Midlands league and is considered to be one of the better ones in that division. There isn't a whole lot of covering but when the weather is like it was tonight that isn't an issue. The large clubhouse is quite impressive (apart from the framed Boston United and Chestefield shirts) and the bar was doing a roaring trade. The first thing that i noticed was this sign advertising a couple of friendlies for Lincoln Ladies. Both of which look quite interesting games.
It was a mixed Lincoln side that took to the field as again we fielded several trialists and nobody was totally sure who was who. The other strange thing was that the Imps took to the field in the 125th anniversary season youth team kit. What made this shirt special was that for a small fee fans could have their names printed on it and of course wanting to help out I had my name plastered on the sodding thing.

Before the match i was a little concerned that we could see a one sided game here tonight. There is a six division gap between the two sides and seeing how it was one of the hottest days of the year (yes i know that that doesn't mean a huge amount given the crappy weather we have been having here) fitness could have been an issue seeing as most of the Newark lads wouldn't have had the day off, whilst Lincoln's players had had the day off. However for much of the first half you would have struggled to work out which side was the full time one. I know it was definitely an evening for watching instead of playing but the Imps players looked like they were going through the motions.
The Imps did take the lead in the 22nd minute when Graham Hutchinson who had now joined the Imps on loan from Birmigham City headed in from close range. Up until this point Newark had really given as good as they had got and gone toe to toe with Lincoln. Would a goal take the wind out of their sails? Not one bit.
The "Peaceful Warriors" were soon on level terms when, after a goal mouth scramble, Ryan Stafford gave the hosts a deserved equaliser. This did seem to wake the Imps up though as we did start to take control after that goal, and were back in front when Adam Smith latched onto a Alan Power through ball and blasted the ball home from 20 yards out.
City spent the halftime break out on the pitch and although we were a little distance from them you could make out that the management team weren't too impressed at their efforts and were telling them so (That the polite way of saying they were getting a bollocking)  Again Lincoln made plenty of changes which resulted in much of the second half being pretty much one way traffic. Newark never gave up chasing but they didn't quite repeat their excellent first half showing.
City added their third in the 68th minute when Rob Duffy headed home. City created plenty of chances but a combination of wayward finishing and good goal keeping from the sub Newark goalkeeper who had a decent game (apart from when he gifted the Imps a fourth goal when he knocked the ball into his own net from a corner), kept the score down. The only real goal threat the hosts had in the second half was when a long rage effort forced Turner to parry and collect the ball in at the second attempt.
So all in all another decent run out for Lincoln who looked much better in the second half and hopefully Newark will have made a few quid out of the game.
It appears that they could well be using the funds to fix the flood lights as two of them caught fire and blew out during the second half. Not something you see everyday.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Eastwood Town 2-4 Lincoln City

The Imps pre season continued today and again they faced Nottinghamshire opposition. Unfortunately i was billy no mates today due to Baz working, and Felice having some cock and bull very valid excuse to miss out on ticking off a new ground and seeing the Imps notch up another pre season win. Not that wins are the be all and end all of pre season, as i have stated in blogs previously.

Today the sun finally came out and i must admit that i was thinking of not bothering with this game and just sitting in a beer garden somewhere, but in the end i decided to go and in the end it was just about worth it. And only spending £30 was a plus.
There was no early start for me today (can't do two all day sessions in a week at my age anyway) So i elected to catch the 11.00am train out of Retford which got into Nottingham at 12.45pm ish. As it was sunny i decided to sample a swift pint in The Mallard at Worksop while waiting for the connecting train to Nottingham, and rather nice it was too.
For any saddos reading this who have a burning desire to know how to get to Eastwood Town's ground using public transport, fear not i am here. From Nottingham railway station you need to take a short stroll down to the Broadmarsh bus station. From there collect the free shuttle bus link out to Victoria bus station, which leaves from the opposite end of the station to the one that you enter on. When you alight at Victoria you want the Rainbow 1 bus link which leaves from the next bay to the one that you arrive at. Just look for a light Blue bus with Rainbow 1 Eastwood on it. Returns cost £4.10. Leave plenty of time though as the journey to Eastwood takes a good 40 minutes. Thankfully i didn't have a drink in Nottingham otherwise this could have been a real test for my bladder. When you get to Eastwood just keep you eyes peeled for the floodlights poking out from behind the houses on the left hand side. Buses run every ten minutes. Another sad fact for you is that the bus goes past Kimberley Town's Stag ground so know you know how to get there aswell. You just need to alight at the Stag pub and bingo, red hot smoking CML football action right there for you.
I was last at Eastwood a couple of seasons ago when the club was on the up and everything look rosy. They were well backed and had plans not only to get into the BSP but longer term League football was the aim. Since then the club was denied entry to the BSN playoffs due to ground grading as they fell foul of not having 500 seats in one stand. The owner withdrew his backing and last season the club slumped to relegation finishing rock bottom of the BSN, although they did retain the Nottingham cup, the season just gone could be described as nothing short of disastrous as it appears the local council aren't being terribly helpful to their cause. With all that going off its a small miracle that the club is being kept going. Hopefully they will get themselves sorted but they do seem to have a bit of battle on their hands at the moment.

Given all their problems it was great to see Eastwood set the admission price at £5 and they were rewarded with a decent following from Lincoln, quite a few of which had sampled quite a few beers in Nottingham city centre before the match. Before i went into the ground i had a couple in the smart clubhouse and a pint came in at only £2.70 which is about 50p cheaper than the average pint in Nottingham, so hats off there. On a trip to the toilet i noticed that they had this framed shirt up on the walls. I can only assume one of their fans won it on a raffle and didn't want it so they donated it to the club. I mean would you want this hanging on your wall?
I noticed on the Eastwood website a few days ago that the club were advertising for a programme editor so it wasn't a huge surprise that they didn't produce one. It seemed that teamsheets were pretty scarce judging by tweets from some of Lincolns media team. Thankfully they tweeted the Lincoln side so we knew who was playing, but if you didn't have Twitter you were screwed. The Imps only played the one trialist; that being Dan Gray who spent last year at Chesterfield.  On entering the ground i headed straight to the food hut in search of food but was told that the chips would "be about 5 minutes" I said i would go back later but alas i am not a man to wait, in the end i didn't bother and decided to spend my cash on food in Notts city centre after the game.
Eastwood Town's ground is decent enough. You get a smart modern stand next to the clubhouse and covered terracing behind each goal. Opposite the main stand is a small seated area flanked by open terracing. On this side of the ground they have built a brand new toilet block but this was shut, which begs the question as to what is the point of shutting that, but leaving the scabby old porta cabin toilets on the other side of the ground open. It was another decent Imps following, with fans bringing drums and making quite a bit of a racket throughout. Just imagine what support we would bring if we actually started doing well. The crowd was given as 199 and i would say well over 120 had travelled with City.

The Imps started with a back four of Robson, Gowling, Boyce, and Nutter with Gray, Nicolau, and Mills in midfield. Up front we had Barraclough, former Eastwood man Jake Sheridan, and new signing Rob Duffy. 4-3-3 is something of a new look for the Imps but then again this is what pre season is all about; trying out different formations and stuff. Lincoln were pretty much in cruise control for the first twenty minutes or so as the homeside struggled to get into the game. For Lincoln, Duffy and Sheridan both went close to opening the scoring. Then as so often happens in football, Eastwood scored against the run of play although Lincoln gave them a huge helping hand.
Josh Gowling had the ball and was being closed down by an Eastwood attacker (Sorry i didnt catch his name) Gowling then attempted what should have been a routine backpass to Keeper Paul Farman however he chronically under hit it and allowed the on rushing striker to nip in and bury the chance. New season same old shit is the phrase that springs to mind here.
After conceding a shit goal like that its imperative that you take the game straight back to the opposition and thankfully that's just what City did. When newly signed centre back Andrew Boyce got above everybody to thump home a header at the back post. City could have been on level terms even sooner as they had a shot blocked on the line prior to this move. From here on Lincoln really stepped it up and took the lead on 28 minutes when Duffy got down the right hand side and sent in a great pass along the deck to the far post when Jake Sheridan was waiting to pounce from a yard out to fire the Imps in front. Lincoln had another chance to add to the lead just before halftime when a Gowling header was cleared off the line. On paper the 1-2 scoreline looked close but it didn't really tell the full story as Lincoln had pretty much dominated the match and should have been out of sight. During the halftime break i strolled round to the end of the ground that the Imps would be attacking second half and had a nice chat with Bubbs; one of the photographers, about all things Imps and general football.
There was only one change for City at the break with Jake Turner replacing Paul Farman in goal. Just after the restart City added another goal with a fine header at the far post. Not long after this City started to make changes with both the Smiths, Jamie Taylor, Peter Bore, and Alan Power replacing Barraclough, Nicolau, Duffy, Mills and Gray. Lincoln still continued to be the better side but the game, as so many pre season friendlies do, began to run out of steam.

Eastwood did have one or two moments (Including this pic of a free kick) but in truth i never felt they looked like scoring. That was until they benefited from a deflection off Robson that gave Turner in the Lincoln goal no chance at all in the 77th minute. Adam Smith was having a fine game since coming on, and the Eastwood defence was having a hard time containing him. Jamie Taylor had a great chance to wrap up the game for City but his effort came back off the base of the post.
Eight minutes from time Lincoln were awarded a penalty when Adam Smith was tripped in the box. Alan Power stepped up and buried the penalty to give the scoreline a more realistic look. Lincoln could have had a fifth a minute or two later but the Eastwood keeper made a smart save from Adam Smith.

FT Eastwood Town 2-4 Lincoln City.

After the match i headed back to the bus stop and managed to get the 4.50pm bus which must have been running a tad late. On arriving in Notts i decided to get some snap and chill out in the city centre. Mexico and Japan had locked horns at Nottingham Forest's City Ground earlier in the afternoon and there were a few Mexican fans dotted around the square. I headed off to the chipshop near the station where I tucked into Lamb Donner meat and chips, which was a tad disappointing and not a patch on the stuff you get at the lace market chippy before ice hockey matches.
I got the 6.55pm train home which was, as normal, full of idiots. This time we were treated to a couple of families from Mansfield who had been to the footie at the City ground trying to get an Olympic style Mexican wave going on the train. The sad thing is that some passengers on the train actually joined in with this shit. You will be glad to know that i refused to join in with such highjinks and continued to read the Nottingham Evening Post whilst ignoring the antics around me.
Elsewhere there was some good news from Boston as news filtered through that the Lincoln City youth side had smashed their counterparts from Boston 4-1 so all in all a decent day for Lincoln City.
Peace out my friends. Next stop Newark Town v Lincoln City

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Worksop Town 1-2 Lincoln City

Picture of the guys from their best side.
Although Lincoln's pre season campaign technically started at the weekend, tonight was the first time that the full first team squad had a run out. As has been the case in the past the Lincoln squad was split with a handful of the squad travelling to Grantham Town and the bulk of the first team squad making the trip to North Nottinghamshire to face Worksop Town at Sandy Lane. A ground which Lincoln made history on back in 1992 when they took part in the first game to be played there.

I know that its an old football cliche but the results of pre season matches matter little, and are about as important as the SPL will be for the next three years. In the past i have known the Imps beat Premiership teams such as Aston Villa and Derby County (when they were in the prem) and narrowly lost by the odd goal to Liverpool and Arsenal. On the other hand i have seen us lose to the likes of Frickly and Retford. One of our best seasons in recent years was the 2002/03 season which ended in defeat in the playoff final at the hands of Bournmouth. But the first pre season match of that season was a dreadful 1-0 defeat at neighbours Lincoln United, in which City barely but two passes together. Had you told any of the 2000 fans there on that Friday night that City would go on to get to the playoff final i am sure they would have questioned your mental being.
For the big sides pre season is about jetting all over the world, making a stack load of cash, while giving local sides in the USA, China, and South Africa etc, a bit of a kicking. For sides at our level its all about having a look at potential new signings, helping new players get use to the sides system, and putting a few quid into the coffers of clubs even lower than City in the football pyramid. And yes there are clubs lower than us. Normally in these kind of games you get a decent match for about 60 minutes then both sides make substitutes galore and the game loses all rhythm and quality. The admission price normally reflects this by being a few quid cheaper. Alas not tonight as Worksop charged their full league price of £10. Despite this a good number of Lincoln fans made the trip over here and a crowd of 535 is far in excess of what Worksop normally attract. In their defence they do have to pay ground rent (a long story) and I believe that Lincoln did get a slice of the gate money. So maybe it wasn't all bad. It was still the most expensive away entrance fee i have paid to watch City in pre season though. I believe that Boston United charged £10 last pre season against City but due to Boston being a god forsaken shithole we gave the place a wide berth.
Tonight saw Felice make his debut as it was his first game of the season. Unfortunately his has sustained an injury over the summer and has his arm in a sling this means that the poor lamb is unable to drive for a few weeks. Luckly Baz stepped up and we all piled into the Bazmobile and set off for Worksop at about 6.35pm arriving in Worksop at just gone 7pm. After parting with our cash at the turnstiles i declined the chance to buy a golden goal and a 50/50 ticket and picked up a programme for 50p. Similar to Hucknall's effort, this consisted of a singled folded sheet of paper with the club badge on the front, a decent enough write up on one side inside, and a WTFC fixture list on the other side. The back page contained the squad line ups which as always in pre season was hopelessly wrong. Ok it wasn't much, but a programme is a programme and much better than no programme. I must point out that you also got a free Worksop Town Unibond league car sticker enclosed with the programme. But i must have mislaid mine in one of the bins dotted around the ground.
After gaining entrance i made my way to the rather posh looking clubhouse which is quite smart but seems smaller once you are in it compared to the outside.

Thanks to the power of Twitter (@Ferretimp ) I had arranged to meet up with an old friend of mine who i haven't seen in over 12 years. Back then when i was a tad slimmer, younger, and dafter i was an apprentice at a local engineering company. For much of this it entailed 4 days on the factory floor and a day of classroom studies and practical work at North Notts collage in Worksop where we were in a class with other students from other local firms. Over the two years friendships were formed as we sat through endless pointless lessons about stuff i haven't used to this very day. Most of the day was spent arsing about telling stupid jokes and me boring everybody with useless facts.The guy i met up with tonight; Richard, was always up for a laugh and we spent many a happy lunch hour drinking in the Newcastle Arms, eating chips, playing pool, and normally being late back for the afternoon lessons. Ah great days. In those days there was no Facebook or Twitter so we fell out of touch but we finally met up tonight and put the world to rights, discussing the state of engineering, our lives in the past 12 years, and mourning the loss of the afore mentioned Newcastle Arms along with other Worksop pubs such as the Carlton Tavern and the Kings Head.
As always with pre season games the Imps played a mixture of trialists and first teamers and with no teamsheet or names on the back of shirts it took a while to work out who was who. As you would expect against a side a couple of divisions lower than themselves Lincoln had more of the ball and at times knocked it around well. Although they didn't create to many chances Lincoln did take the lead from a fine header from Sam Smith from close range. We watched the game from the open terrace along the touchline which gave a pretty decent view of things.
One of the things we got a decent view of was a couple of Worksop Town stewards who have had "Worksop Town" shaved into the backs of their hair. Quite novel i am sure you will agree and not something that ever occured to me to do when i was working as a steward at LCFC back in the day.
Containing the excitement was just too much at times.
In the second half City rang the changes and gave more players the chance to impress the gaffer. One of which doubled the Imps lead when he latched onto a through ball the Worksop defence tried to play the offside trap, failed, and left him with the easy task of lashing the ball home. Later on his identity was revealed as Phil Bannister who has been playing his football in the USA for the last couple of seasons. At the other end Worksop's first chance went to Bruno Holden, who impressed at Stamford last season but Lincoln sub keeper Jake Turner was up to the task. The Tigers did get one back when former Imp Leon Mettam's glancing header from close range gave the hosts something to cheer about.

So all in all it was what you would expect for a first pre season game. Some players impressed, some didn't, but on the whole it was a decent game played in a good spirit, watched in good company. Not totally sure it was worth £10 though.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Teversal 0-0 Staveley Miners Welfare.

Staveley win 5-3 on penalties.
Eyes on the prize
We here we go, the start of my 2012/13 season. How many games i will take in this year is uncertain, i don't and never really have had a set target amount of games i would like to attend in a season. One thing that i am pretty sure on though, I will witness far better games than i saw here tonight.
Tonight's match wasn't technically a friendly. It was the first semi final of the Teversal tournament which is Nottinghamshire footballs answer to the Emirates Cup. This prestigious event attracts sides  from all over Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire and Yorkshire all desperate to get their hands on the trophy.

Teversal are really pulling out all the stops to try and get punters through the gate this season. A season ticket is a snip at a mere £55 which includes all first team league and cup matches plus under 19 fixtures (and a programme at all matches) Entrance prices for these pre season games were £2 with a programme covering the whole of the tournament costing £1. It was a decent enough effort to start the season off with and had plenty of information on the seven sides that were contesting the cup. We arrived in good time so we headed straight to the bar for a swift pint.
The weather is still being a bit of a bitch but we got lucky tonight and thankfully the rain stayed away. It was so nice in fact that we were able to sit outside and sup our pints as the sides warmed up.
The match report will be one of the briefest that i write this year due to the fact that hardly anything happened one or two half chances but that was pretty much it. Sutton play their football a step below Staveley and matched them for much of the game. After the match had finished 0-0 the game (thankfully) went straight to a penalty shoot out which saw Staveley triumph 5-3.

Teversal's ground is decent enough for this level but the standout feature has to be the "Tesco End" at the far end of the ground. One of the strangest stands you will see but very effective.
I am a tad behind on blogging this week but Staveley went on to win the tournament beating Parkgate 2-0 in the final so congratulations to them.

On Thursday night I took in my second game of the season at Rossington Main who hosted Harworth C.I. The game was much better than Monday night's fare and finished 1-1. No big write up for this one and just a couple of pictures.
Free footie. youve got to love it
Not much to say about this. Its a stand, errr that's it really

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Hucknall Town 3-2 Lincoln City

First pre season game for Lincoln City today and with it being in one of the suburbs of Nottingham that meant only one thing. An all day drinking session to start the new season off. This fixture hadn't been given much prominence on the Imps website as the club had designated it a "Youth Team" fixture, but would that put me off? Course it didn't.
Midland Youth cup winners 2011/12
And nor should it. There may well a lot of problems in a lot of areas of the Sincil Bank set up at the moment but the youth side and the youth development section is one of the few things we have got right. One of the high points off last season was watching the youth side demolish Chesterfield 3-0 on their own ground in the Midland league youth cup final. Five of that side went on to sign professional contracts with the club and some of them featured here today. The youth side is led by Imps legend Grant Brown who it would seem is doing a cracking job.

I had sampled a few beers the night before so the first thing that i needed to do was liven myself up and what better way of doing that than having a good old full English breakfast to start the day off. Whenever i am in Notttingham and i am need of breakfast i always head over to Debenhams to sample one of their delightful eight item breakfasts, washed down with a pot of tea. The eight items i selected were sausage (x2), fried bread, scrambled egg, black pudding, beans, and hash brown (x2) Toast was included free and with a pot of tea it all came to less than £6 a bargain if I ever a saw one. The only slight complaint was that the beans were a tad on the cold side so maybe tomatoes would have been a better choice but never the less the breakfast did the trick and it set me up for a day of drinking.
I met up with my cousin Richard in the Bank pub in Nottingham market square at just gone midday. The Bank my not be one of Nottingham's more classy watering holes but it is one of the few that you can get two pints of lager for £5 hence why we quite often make it our first port of call. Because of the price of drink the  pub does to seem quite popular, but it never takes long to get served.
Even though this game has been on the radar for a good few weeks now i hadn't done a huge amount if research on how to get the ground. I have been here twice before but only in a car and never by public transport. The tram line does run to Hucknall but i received information that it was a good 30 minute walk to the ground so that option went out the window quite early on. After looking at a couple of timetables the best bet appeared to be grabbing a bus from Victoria bus station, getting off at the Weatherspoons pub, then grabbing a cab up to the ground.
Although the plan seems to tad hit and miss it actually worked out very well. We boarded the bus at about 2pm ish and alighted at the pub at just gone 2.20pm and not a moment to soon. The drinks in the city centre had taken their toll on my bladder despite emptying it before we left. Unfortunately the buses were running slightly late due to roadworks en route. This added to the bumpy ride really didn't help matters.
After waddling over to the toilet to empty my bulging bladder i got the dog and bone out to book the cab for 2.45pm, here's a snippet of our conversation

Me: Can i book a cab from the Weatherspoons pub on Hucknall high street please.
Operator: Certainly sir where to?
Me: Hucknall Town football club's ground please.
Operator: Oh you mean the shed, certainly sir.
This is the Shed!
Hucknall Town's ground may not be in the same class as the City Ground or Meadow Lane but its certainly a bit better than a shed. I can certainly think of worse grounds in the Nottinghamshire area. The cab was bang on time so after wolfing down our beers it was off to the ground. Its only a short drive and the cab only set us back £3 and we arrived with about 5 minutes to spare. Hows that for timing?. So after two trains a bus and a taxi i had arrived for the first Imps pre season game of the season. Entrance for the match was a very reasonable £5 with the programme costing 50p. This basically consisted of a folded piece of paper with two squad lists on and that was pretty much that. Any programme is better than no programme though and its always good to have something to remember the game by.
The sides were just walking back in after the warm up so we figured we had a few minutes till the K.O (It kicked off a few minutes late) So we dived into the clubhouse for a swift pint. Unfortunately you weren't allowed to take drinks outside, Not even in plastic cups so we missed the first 5 minutes or so.
The Hucknall squad had a very familiar look to it. Manager Brett Marshall (the Jose Mourinho of Nottinghmshire football) fresh from winning the NCEL premier division has decamped to Hucknall and taken much of that side with him. This season he is being sponsored by Malc and Kev who produce the on the road football blog. And it was with these that we watched much of the first half. I didn't take any pictures of the game but there are a few on their blog for you to check out here.
The Young Imps side started the game well and carried on playing the same type of football they played last season. One of the stars of this side is midfielder Karl Cunningham who made a couple of first team appearances for the Imps last season. It was his well taken goal that gave Lincoln the lead when his shot completely wrong footed the Yellow's keeper who could only stand by and watch it roll into the back of the net. We went further ahead in the 28th minute when a good team move finished with Kieran Walker blasting in a volley from about 12 yards out.
The Homeside got back into it when a poor throw out by the keeper was intercepted by one of the Hucknall players the ball was slung in and Julian Topliss slammed the ball home from close range. It got even better for Marshall's troops a minute before half time when they equalised through a Theo Ganderson pile driver that gave Nick Reason in goal no chance. I was doing a quick lap of the ground at this moment. (The highpoint being shaking hands with Imps legend Tony Cunningham) Inevitably the lap ended up at the clubhouse bar where we spend the half time break (and about 10 minutes of the second half) On reflection the game had been pretty level. The Imps had been the better footballing side with Hucknall looking a little more streetwise than their opponents.
By the time we rejoined the action the Hucknall comeback was complete as they had taken the lead. Having not seen the goal i can't comment on its quality or how it came about. We watched the second half from the clubhouse end but as normal with these kind of games a boatload of substitutions broke up the flow of the game. The only real action of note came in the 67th minute when Lincoln were awarded a penalty kick. Aaron rice stepped up and saw his effort saved by the outstretched leg of the Hucknall keeper. Both sides could have added the score but it ended 3-2 to the homeside.

After the match we had another couple of pints in the clubhouse before walking back into the town. Halfway between the ground and town centre is the Central Social club so we called in there for a good hour or so after an invitation from one of Richard's friends Rob. From there on we went back to the Weatherspoons for "One for the road" before heading our separate ways. With me heading to the train station and he the bus stop. We had just about worked out where they both were thanks to asking a few locals, although they didn't seem too sure where they were and looked as if they had been on the piss all day, tut tut. Having not eaten all day i was hoping that there would be a kebab shop en-route but alas we were out of luck on that score.

Hucknall train station is a bit of a barren place in which to sober up and apart from a nearby Tesco there really isn't much around it. I could have had a swift half in the Station hotel across the road but i had decided that i had maybe drunk enough for one weekend. There were plenty of folk getting the tram for a night out in Nottingham but  i was a tad knackered by this point. I did manage to make a friend though in the shape of a white, orange, and black cat that came over to say hello and was quite a fussy little thing. He/she was quite cute so here's a couple of pictures for the all to go "Awwwww" at. I certainly didn't think i would end the day playing with some random pussy in Hucknall before i got the 8.16 pm train home.
Cat picture one
Cat picture two
Nottinghamshire has some wonderful things to see and experience but travelling back late on the Robin Hood train line on a Saturday night isn't one of them. Typically the trains are full of people who are pissed, football fans coming back from games who are pissed, and people heading for a night out in the wonderful towns of Mansfield and Worksop. All in all its not one of life's most uplifting experiences. On this occasion i had the pleasure of a Mansfield fan with about 4 teeth telling me everything Lincoln fans already know about David Holdsworth and his management style. I have been told by a Retford based stags fan that there is a big difference between Mansfield fans based in Mansfield itself and the sensible ones that travel into the town to watch the games then get out as soon as they can after the final whistle. These seemed to back this theory up although i am sure there are some decent stags fans in Mansfield itself.
After arriving at Worksop (who lost 1-0 at Retford today) I managed to bag a lift home to Retford from my good lady, and finished the night off like all good nights should be finished off; With a large lamb donner kebab and portion of chips from the Retford Charcoal grill, and as ever it was spot on. All in all a great start to my Lincoln watching in 2012/13. Many thanks to all the company we met throughout the day.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Lincoln 3-3 Liverpool Highlights

Well here is  the action form the Lady Imps 3-3 draw with Liverpool at the weekend. Looking back on them you carn't help feeling sorry for Sophie Bradley for her own goal and Nic in goal who was desperately unlucky not to get to the penalty in the last minute of injury time.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Lincoln Ladies 3-3 Liverpool

Programme from the match damaged by the rain
Another game that had almost everything. Six goals, two penalties, a sending off, an own goal, and missed chances. The only thing it didn't have was the three points that Lincoln, on the balance of play, deserved and in truth needed if they were to push on and climb the table. Before the game in the local press the point was made that Lincoln had to get the three points if they were to achieve this season's target league position. Where it leaves them after this result i am not too sure.

The weather has been dreadful in the East Midlands and i must admit i was concerned as to whether the game would go ahead. Thanks to a tweet from the club however it became apparent that a pitch inspection was due to take place at 9.00am so everybody would know in good time whether or not the game was to go ahead. This was in stark contrast to the match earlier in the season at Liverpool when the Lady Imps got all the way to Liverpool before finding out on Twitter that the game was off due to a water logged pitch. The good news was that the sun was out and the pitch was playable so a big pat on the back to the groundstaff for getting the match on. As always in life good news often goes hand in hand with bad news and this was true today as the club confirmed that the BBQ/tea hut was out of action today which was a bit of a disappointment seeing how the food is always spot on. And its always nice to have a cuppa when watching the beautiful game.
The famous Lady Imp tea hut. Sadly missed today.
The sides met at Ashby Avenue about a month ago in the Continental cup and it was an entertaining game in which the Imps won 3-2. That doesnt tell the full story though as Liverpool did take the lead twice (one being a freak own goal) and Lincoln's winner arrived 5 minutes from the end of the match. Since the sides met Liverpool have changed manager with Ronnie Johnson stepping down and Andy Williams taking over in a caretaker role. Since the sides last met. Liverpool have won 2-0 at rock bottom Doncaster and had a 0-2 home defeat to Chelsea. In their last two matches Lincoln have had a good 2-0 win over Chelsea and a dreadful 1-3 home defeat to Bristol last time out. Those last two results for Lincoln were pretty much an overview into the Imps' season so far. Consistently inconsistent, hot and cold, Jekyll and Hyde etc. Whichever one you chose it can be used to describe today's Lincoln performance.
Again Lincoln fielded an unchanged line up from the one that started the last match. And again it started in similar fashion when the Imps took the lead through Precious Hamilton. Casey Stoney brought the ball out of  defence and hit a long ball that caught out the Liverpool defence and allowed Precious to control it before placing it past Nicola Davies in the Liverpool goal. The Imps had started really brightly and it was evident that they had had their collective arses kicked in training because this side was unrecognisable from the one that had played so poorly just seven days ago.
The Cantrell/Hamilton partnership has been a tad hit and miss since Jess Clarke got injured but it seemed to be working today. Cantrell was causing problems and had a couple of decent efforts but also failed to read the offside trap on a couple of occasions. Lincoln were winning quite a few free kicks and it was from these that Lincoln started most of their good work. Staniforth took the ones in the danger zone with Stoney launching the ones from deep.
Lincoln doubled the lead on 14 minutes when a Collette McCallum corner was flicked on and the ball found its way to Cantrell. Although her effort was blocked by a defender the ball fell to Hamilton who made no mistake and notched her third goal in two games. After going so long without a goal she is now the Imp in form, firing on all cylinders and looking like the player she was at the start of the season.
Now Lincoln sensed blood and went for the knock out blow, but by hook or by crook Liverpool held out and slowly got a foot hold in the game. Had Lincoln got the third then the flood gates would have opened up. Alas the Imps did what they have done all season and switched off.
A free kick was conceded on the right hand side of the pitch about 30 yards inside the Lincoln half near the touchline. It wasn't in a particularly dangerous position and one that you felt would and should have been pretty straight forward to defend. It wasn't whipped in flat instead it was just lumped into the box in more of a hit and hope style. Alas neither of the centre backs dealt with it, Nic in goal stayed on her line, Emily Gielnik of Liverpool said thank you very much and headed unchallenged into the net to get the visitors back into the game. You can't fault the finish but it was a sickener to let in a soft goal like this.
A few minutes later Liverpool got another free kick in a similar area. This time Lincoln marked up much more tightly. Noticing this the Liverpool players went straight for goal as Nic had positioned herself a couple of feet off her line but she got back to make a top class save from her top right hand corner. Lincoln then went on to clear the corner in convincing fashion.
Lincoln nearly had a third when Hamilton skipped past Charlton on the left before blasting into the side netting. She may have been better off squaring it back across the goal but when you are on a hatrick and bang in form why shouldn't you have a go? Sport is all about confidence and its great to see Precious playing with bags of it.
She had another good chance soon after but Davis did well to save when she was one on one with the Lincoln striker. The rebound then fell to Lucy Staniforth who managed to send the golden chance high and wide. As they old say in football goes i am sure she will "Be disappointed with that" But to be fair to her, although the keeper was on the ground she was quickly closed down by a group of Liverpool players so she had to hit it first time as it came to her.
That was the last real chance of the first half and it was a strange half because for all of Lincoln's dominance, good football, and chances they had created, they only lead by a goal and we all know how dodgy a one goal lead can be in football.
Liverpool perhaps sensing that they were still in a game that by rights they had no right to still be in, started much better than Lincoln and started to take the game to Lincoln who looked much more nervous in the second half. Casey Stoney had to be alert to clear the danger just in front of the line after a couple of failed clearances from the Lincoln defence. During this period at the start of the second half when Liverpool had the upper hand, Sophie Bradley was a real rock at the back. Her pace and reading of the game are second to none and its easy to see why she is so highly regarded in the England set up. Down the left hand side Rachel Daly was her normal dependable self and made a couple of her trademark forward surging runs.
The chances seemed to dry up for both sides in the second half but you are always nervous when you are protecting a one goal lead because anything can happen and in the 71st minute it did.

Liverpool hit a long range shot which didn't look particularly threatening. Then however it took a wicked deflection off Sophie Bradley and looped in over Nic and nestled in the back of the net to draw Liverpool level. I was stood pretty much in line with it all seemed to happen in slow motion. Like the first goal this was a real kick in the teeth but unlike the first one no amount of work on the training ground can prepare you or prevent this sort of thing from happening.
This wasn't the first own goal that Lincoln had conceded this season. As they had also conceded one against..Liverpool in the cup game here. And the unfortunate lady who was credited with the own goal that day? Yep it was Sophie Bradley. Which prat said that lightening doesn't strike twice?
This seemed to spark the Imps back into life however and they again took the game to the Reds and they took the lead a couple of minutes later when Hamilton was brought down in the box and after consulting with her assistant the ref pointed to the spot. Remi Allen is the Lady Imp's penalty taking queen and is damn good at it as well. She has so far converted both penalties she has taken so far this season and penalty number three was converted with ease. Remi is one of the hardest working players in the team and the real engine room in the Imps midfield so its great to see her get on the score sheet. (She also scooped the lady of the match award).
Again Lincoln went looking for the knockout blow that would have put the game in bed. Chances were made and missed by the likes of Hamilton and Cantrell. With ten minutes to go Hamilton was subbed for Jess Clarke in what was her first appearance since recovering  from injury. Then in the 88th minute came the moment to seal the game. Substitute Bonnie Horwood played a fantastic ball through that split the Liverpool defence for Jess Clarke to latch on to. Now had it been a fully match fit Jess then she would have easily left the visitors defence for dead and slammed the ball into the back of the net to give the Imps the points. However her understandable lack of sharpness showed as the pool defence got back and did just enough to put her off her stride and her shot was tamely hit. The Imps would rue that miss.

For some reason the ref had managed to find plenty of stoppage time and with that almost up Liverpool launched one last attack in the box and lumped a high ball into the box Casey Stoney was then adjudged to have barged the Liverpool attacker over and the ref pointed to the spot. The skipper was then shown the yellow card followed by a red. I didn't realise it at the time but this was Casey's second yellow of the game. Kelly Jones kept her cool to slot the ball past Nic to give Liverpool a share of the points. The Imps kicked off then the ref promptly blew for full time. One word summed it all up. Gutted. Just to really but the icing on the cake, during the walk back to the station after the game i managed to get caught in a torrential down pour and got thoroughly soaked to the skin. Not really what you want to lift your mood after a last minute penalty On the plus side i watched the game in the company of Martyn Daly a man who clearly knows his onions when it comes to football. Its always nice to meet up with people who read this blog.
I know that the scoreline says 3-3 but Lincoln will feel (rightly in my opinion) that they should have taken the three points but that's football as they say. As this is the last game before the Olympic break its perhaps a good time to pause and reflect on the season so far; what has gone right, and what hasn't.
 I felt that this game was pretty a decent summery of Lincoln's season to date. For the first twenty minutes their football was fantastic and had Liverpool chasing shadows. Then as soon as they let in the first goal the game totally changed and they looked nervy. If you look at the three goals that Lincoln conceded today you could say they were unlucky. The own goal was unlucky of that there is no doubt, you could argue that the 3rd was as well due the strange amount of injury time that the ref found from somewhere, and the first was simply a poor goal to lose. The problem for Lincoln is that these things have been happening to us for much of the season as we have continually made it difficult for ourselves. So far the only side that has really dominated Lincoln for any period was in the last 20 minutes in the 3-3 draw with Arsenal at home. Other than that Lincoln have given as good as they have got throughout the season.
Looking on the positive side though we have always looked very good going forward (apart from the Bristol game) and the fact that we have spread the goals around the side is a good sign as its great to have so many attacking options from all over the pitch. I go to Lincoln Ladies games very confident that we will score goals but on the other hand i wouldn't be rushing to place a bet on us keeping clean sheets. That's not to say the defenders are not pulling their weight because defending starts from the front and you defend as a front 10 not a back 4. You have to remember that this is a very young team who are going to make the odd error and play the wrong ball from time to time and at this level those mistakes will be punished.
Overall my view is one of optimism for the future. This side is a work in progress job and if we can keep them together then the future is very bright for the club.
As i said earlier the FAWSL takes a break for the Olympics and it goes without saying that i hope the team do the country proud (which i am sure they will do) Lincoln are represented in the squad by Sophie Bradley and Casey Stoney who has the honour of Captaining the side.
The next two Lady Imp games i will be blogging about will be the away match at Doncaster and the away match at Arsenal for which we already have train tickets booked and paid for. So if you are a Lady Gunners fan and you notice three Lincoln fans looking a little drunk and lost around north London then that will be us.
Thanks for reading the blogs and i look foward to continuing writing in the second phase of the season.

Come on you Lady Imps (and "Team GB")

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Notts Outlaws v Yorkshire Carnegie

Tonight saw Baz and my good self head down Nottingham to watch the Notts outlaws take on the Yorkshire Carnegie in the twenty20 cup at Trent Bridge. The weather here has been pretty dreadful over the past week and with it pissing it down for most of the morning i was a tad concerned that we wouldn't get the full allocation of overs in but thankfully we got a full evenings play. I haven't seen much of Baz since last season finished so it was good to catch up and discuss the plan of attack for Lincoln's pre season and next season. Just going back to last season for a moment Baz told me that the long arm of the law had unfortunately caught the Bazmobile speeding on the way back from watching Retford United's game at Bridlington. The old boy had been caught on camera and now had to attend a drivers awareness course in the near future. Maybe he should have taken some first class advice from our good friend Shaggy.

Amongst other things, we discussed the Imps first two away matches at Cambridge United and Newport County. Without going into too much detail on the trip for Cambridge it looks like Baz will be getting a round of teas in for the lads at Hucknall Town. I will say no more.
Tickets for tonight's game were available at £17 on the gate for £13 if you booked in advance (which is what we did)  Although if you pre booked don't be fooled into thinking that you pick them up from the ticket office. No you have to take a stroll to the collection point window, the very one that we had walked past to go to the ticket office.(Like a pair of muppets) From there we took on wander to find some pre match food and paid a visit to the Trent Bridge spice kebab shop. I went for the lamb donner and chicken shish combo with Baz going the whole hog and ordering the house special.
One of the appeals of watching cricket live is the vastly different ways fans get treated in contrast to going to a football match. At the cricket you get "Ground admission" which allows you to sit in any stand in the ground that you want, apart from the members enclosure and upper tier of the Radcliffe road stand which was shut for tonight's game. Thus meaning you can wander around the ground to your hearts content. You are also allowed to bring you own food into the ground, another action that is frowned upon in footballing circles. If you don't bring your own in then there is a good range of food on offer that actually looks quite nice unlike the grotty overpriced  crap you tend to get at most football league and former football league grounds.
Tonight's game was set up quite nicely. Yorkshire sat top of the Northern group but if Notts won then they would go top of the group with two matches to play. A win for the visitors would put them into the last eight so there was plenty to play for. As we ate our kebab we were "entertained" by Nuts the Squirrel and a dance act that i had never heard of, and in all probability will never hear of again. Notts had won the toss and elected to bat. The plan being to get a decent score on the board and let Yorkshire chase the total under the lights. A good plan in theory, but then the game started.
The first ball of the Notts innings was edged by Riki Wessels and that really set the tone for the rest of the Nottinghamshire innings. Just as soon as a batsman started to look settled they did a daft shot and gave their wicket away. The one exception was Adam Voges who hit a splendid 70. By the end of the innings Notts had posted a score of 148-6 which was about 30 runs shy of the kind of total then they would have wanted before the start of play. Credit must go to Yorkshire for the way they bowled and contained the Notts batsmen throughout the innings and forced them into mistakes.

At the innings change i took the opportunity to check out the club shop. Half of it was selling Notts CCC stuff and half of it was selling England stuff. Earlier on in the season Trent Bridge hosted a test match between England and the West Indies. With this in mind Notts had ordered a few boxes of West Indies caps which it would appear they are struggling to shift given that they are now down to £10 and have plenty of stock available. I managed to bag myself a Notts CCC cap and a cute cuddly Nuts the squirrel  mascot.
Yorkshire got off to a blistering start with 14 coming from the first over alone. Notts did have a sniff about halfway through the innings when they managed to bag a couple of wickets and slow down the Yorkshire batting, but in the end Yorkshire won by 6 wickets with 14 balls to spare, and were helped by some Notts misfields along the way. This was Notts' first defeat in the competition this season and with the following days game away at Derbyshire being rained off it means that they have qualified for the quarter finals. Should they beat Leicestershire at home on Sunday then they will get a home tie in the last eight. However being at home isn't the be all and end all as last season they breezed through the group stage, topped it, got a home tie, and promptly went on to lose the bugger.
I can thoroughly recommend taking in a match at Trent Bridge if you get the chance. The stadium is great and you normally get to see and international player or two on show.
One final point is that we got very lucky with the weather; given how much rain we had it was a pleasant surprise that we got the full 40 overs in. It was just a shame that Notts didn't make the most of them.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Lincoln 1-3 Bristol 30/06/12 FAWSL Highlights

Here,s the "Highlights" (more like low lights) of the Lady Imps defeat at the hands of Bristol. Good goal from Precious Hamilton though

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Lincoln Ladies 1-3 Bristol Academy Women

Hmm the phrase bad day at the office springs to mind here folks.

Its strange how football can come along and boot you up the arse when you least expect it. Only seven short days ago Lincoln ground out a great 2-0 win against Chelsea and looked solid and the back and clinical up front. Today there first half defensive performance was quite comfortably their worst of the season. However it would be wrong to say that the result was totally down to Lincoln playing poorly. Bristol had obviously done their homework on Lincoln, had a game plan, and executed it very well.

As we are coming up to the halfway stage of the season the league is starting to take shape. Arsenal, after there fine 4-2 away win at Birminhgam last weekend, are starting to pull away at the top. Birmingham, who currently sit in the second (and final) Champions League spot have a three point gap to the teams in the chasing pack which includes Lincoln, Everton, Bristol, and Chelsea all bunched together on 8 points and separated only on goal difference. After this pack you have Liverpool a few points adrift and then you get Doncaster on 3 points rooted to the foot of the table (and we wont mention which team they got those three points against shall we).
So as it stands if any team from the chasing pack is going to challenge Birmingham for the second Champions League spot (I think we can pretty much concede the title and the first Champions League spot to Arsenal) they really need to start putting a run of wins together soon and take points off the other sides in that chasing pack.
The two sides have meet before this season with Lincoln grinding out a solid 1-0 at their place when Carla Cantrell grabbed her first goal of the season. So today gave Lincoln a great chance to record their first double of the season.

As you would expect after the good performance last week Lincoln went into the match with an unchanged line up from the one that saw off Chelsea last time out. And the day started so well for Lincoln as they took the lead inside the first couple of minutes. A low cross was fired in by Collette McCallum and Precious Hamilton slid in at the near post to notch her second goal of the season. Precious has worked really hard over the past few matches for little reward and with a bit more luck could have bagged herself a hat full so i was pleased for her to get on the score sheet. Hopefully this will give her confidence a boost and more goals will follow. Unfortunately from a Lincoln standpoint this was as good as it got, as the Imps hit the self destruct button.

Bristol were soon into their stride though and were back on level terms three minutes later. Bristol won a freekick down their left hand flank and loaded the box ready for the delivery. Jess Fishlock then whipped a curling ball in that went over everybody and flew into the top corner at the back post. I have seen some decent set piece moves in the WSL and this was right up there (much as it pains me to say it). As the ball was sent in, the Bristol players were all making runs which distracted the Lincoln defenders and keeper, by the time the Imp players realised what was happening the ball was in the net. To use an old football cliche this was  "One straight from the training ground"

Lincoln looked slightly punch drunk at that goal and were horridly caught out in possession in the middle of the park moments later when Bristol  launched a devastating counter move which ended with Spanish playmaker Laura Del Rio sending over a cross of real quality for Natasha Harding to head home at the back post to give the visitors the lead. So from being 1-0 up after two minutes the Imps were now 2-1 down after 14.
Lincoln did try to get back into the game and forced a couple of free kicks and corners but never really created a clear cut chance. Bristol though were looked dangerous on the break and were starting to get on top in midfield. Lincoln helped them do this though by constantly giving the ball away.
Bristol went further ahead in the 34th minute and again it was poor from a Lincoln point of view. The Imps again gave the ball away which allowed Harding to unleash a fierce drive which Nic in the Lincoln goal parried into the air. Unfortunately it didn't quite have enough on it to clear the cross bar and despite the best efforts of Sophie Bradley to clear it off the line Nikki Watt forced it home to make it 1-3. It would appear that the ball had already crossed the line as the goal has been given to Harding. I felt sorry for Nic on this one because she did the correct thing (In my view anyway) in trying to push the ball over the bar. Had she just parried it out infront of her it would have gone straight into the path of the onrushing Bristol players. Had it gone over the bar to safety we would have been saying what a great save.That's the problem with being a keeper. The margins for error are so fine. As i found out to my cost as a failed goal keeper who's career between the sticks never went any higher than two seasons in the Retford and district 5 a side second division (during one of which we finished bottom).

Thankfully Lincoln managed to knuckle down and got in to halftime without conceding any more goals. This was by far the worst performance that the Imps have put in so far this season, and it was the first time they have been two goals behind in a match. As the players trudged off to the dressing rooms the Lincoln coaching team stayed out on the pitch for a few minutes heads bowed no doubt planning a difficult team talk. I would imagine its tough to give a team talk in a situation like this. Obviously  the management wouldn't have been happy with what they had just seen, not one bit, but if you go over the top with criticism  you run the risk of destroying what confidence the girls had left. 

With the Imps being a couple of goals down it wouldn't have been a huge surprise if changes were made but Glen Harris decided to give the starting eleven the chance to make amends. The main feature for much of the second half wasn't so much either side but the referee, who i felt was a tad whistle happy and never let the game flow. This suited Bristol as it allowed them to slow the game down and kill of any momentum that Lincoln tried to build. The Imps did try to get forward and back into the game but in truth never really looked like scoring. On the plus side we did look alot more solid at the back and Bristol were happy to sit back and try to hit Lincoln on the counter attack. Lincoln did have three strikers on the pitch for the last 15 minutes or so when Katie Rood was introduced into the attack but again the breakthrough appeared elusive. Katie, as with her previous performances, looked lively and chased everything down. In truth i was a little surprised that she wasn't brought on at half time but her performances have certainly warranted more game time (In my view anyway) 
As the game petered out the main question was whether both sides would finish with eleven ladies on the pitch. The game hadn't been a dirty one at all but the ref seemed hell bent on booking almost everything that moved. Late on in the game Remi Allen conceded a free kick and  in frustration picked up the ball and slammed it into the ground. Naturally this brought a yellow card for dissent and it just about summed Lincoln's day up. I felt sorry for Remi as she had bust a gut in midfield trying to get the imps back into it in the second half. 

Now i always try to be an optimist and i am going to try to look on the bright side. Before this round of games Lincoln were three points behind 2nd place. Despite this defeat and other results they are still three points behind second place. Ok  there are a few sides bunched up three points ahead of them but they will all have to play each other so there are plenty of points to be won (or lost) 
Yes this was a poor performance (as some of the girls on Twitter have acknowledged) but this side has had setbacks before this season and always bounced back in the next match. Lincoln really do need to win their next league game this coming weekend (at home to Liverpool) And after this match i am sure Glen with have them fired up. 
After the Liverpool game its the mid season break and Lincoln only have one more home league match to play this season (Everton at home on the last day).
While on the road we face Doncaster, Liverpool, Chelsea, Birmingham and a trip to Champions elect Arsenal.  The odds may be against the Imps at the moment and if we are going to get in the top two we will have to do it that hard way. But there will be plenty of twists and turns along the way. Its never a dull moment watching Lincoln Ladies that’s for sure.