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Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Blidworth Welfare 2-1 Nottingham United.


On the menu today, step 7 non league football and a mouth watering clash between Central Midlands league southern division's Blidworth Miners Welfare and Nottingham United. This is the first step 7 match i have got to this season (shame on me i know) and what a match to pick. Nottingham United started the season like a house on fire; winning their opening five league games of the season. However the good start wasn't maintained and the side haven't registered a victory since and have now gone 18 games without a league win. Before kick off they sat in 14th place in the division (out of 17 clubs) having collected 17 points from  23 matches played, and sporting a goal difference of -40.

However, the homeside are also having a challenging season. Out of 22 games played the club have won just twice, drawn once, and lost 19. 24 goals have been scored with 84 being shipped at the other end. With the side's points haul standing at 7 points it isn't really surprising than the are at the foot of the table and indeed the entire footballing pyramid. They are not however adrift, as Blackwell MW are only two points better off, have a worse goal difference, and have played a game more, so a win today could lift Blidworth of the foot of the table. One plus for both clubs on show today however, is the fact that there is no relegation from this league as this really is the arse end of footballing universe.

And what attracted me to watch a game at said arse end of the footballing universe? Well a few factors. Firstly as i said before i haven't yet got to a CML game this season so it was about high time i put that right. But the big draw for me was it's a new ground so not only is it another "tick", but its a special tick.

Ever since i started groundhopping i have always been keen to tick of as many of the Nottinghamshire clubs all the way down to step 7 as possible, and before today only 5 remained to be visited. Blidworth, Clifton, Welbeck, Radcliffe Olympic, and Real United (who play at Gedling Towns old ground) With this kind of thing different people have different rules as what counts as a tick. In my case i am just interested in visiting the grounds and not ticking off the teams. I know that sounds strange so let me explain. For example AFC Mansfield play their home games at Forest Town FC. I have already visited Forest Town for a game when they were around, so there is no need to revisit for an AFC Mansfield game as the ground is pretty much the same. Some folk would want to revisit if a different club moves in but i am not that sad, yet... One reason i have not done Blidworth until now is the fact that its a bit awkward to reach from Retford by public transport as its involves taking two trains and a bus. However i called in a favour today and bagged myself a lift to and from the game from the Mind of an Imp official spell checker. Alas i couldn't persuade her to watch the game. Oh well her loss. Besides she enjoyed the four journeys she made through the wonderful Nottinghamshire country side anyway.

Having been dropped off with plenty of time to kill i wandered into the village to see what was happening. Not alot was the answer, i was hoping to find a pub but all that i could locate of interest was a decent looking chip shop. Having failed in my quest for alcohol, i wandered back up to the ground for a couple of pre match pints in the welfare. The welfare wasn't too busy apart from a card school going off in the corner. It's pretty big and looks to have events on most nights of the week. Well worth a visit. There is a large screen with Sky Sports on with the epic clash between St Mirren and Celtic being shown. Maybe that's why it was very quiet hardly a game to draw the punters in is it?

I left the warmth and comfort of the clubhouse at just gone 2.30pm and headed for the entrance. To get to the ground you have to walk past the cricket field and follow the signs. Today's entrance fee was the CML standard £3 with the programme coming in at £1.

I must say that i do really like the ground. Over the past few years the standard of CML grounds has gone down hill but Blidworth is a real jewel. The ground is set in a natural bowl so as you enter you get a great panoramic view of the ground. The team hut is positioned next to the entrance and programme seller. First stop was to pick up a cup of tea then head down the famous Blidworth steps into the ground.

There are two covered areas. The main stand is at the end of the ground that you enter and is a smart seated effort. Alone one touchline you get a small covered area with a long wooden bench along it. There is hard standing all around the ground with the pitch totally railed off. Its a smashing ground and certainly one of the best in the CML. Apart from South Normington i can't think of a better one i have visited.  The only down side was that it felt a bit lonely. Both teams were warming up on the pitch near the cricket field and the club officials and co were all up the top near the tea bar and brand new changing rooms, so at 2.40pm i was the only punter in the ground.

When the teams came out however, the crowd had swelled to about 20 or so. Blidworth were in a rather smart red and black halved kit with United in a dodgy looking orange number. Given that both sides have leaked goals it was perhaps not surprising that they both created plenty of chances, however most efforts ended up flying out of the ground. To both sides' credit though they did try to keep the ball on the ground and play the game the right way.

The homeside took a deserved lead on 9 minutes when a corner was whipped in from the left hand side and Barry Alberry got infront of his marker to glance home the ball into the bottom corner. A move straight from the training ground as they would say. Blidwoth continued to turn the screw but poor finishing let them down. They were however given a bit of a let off when their keeper failed to collect a cross, but the Nottingham striker fluffed the chance as a Blidwoth defender got back to hack the ball off the line. Blidworth held out till halftime and in my humble view they were well worth it. Elsewhere the Gary Simpson era at Lincoln City had got off to a dreadful start as the Imps went 1-0 down at Woking inside 20 seconds. However the Imps had fought back and levelled the scores and if my Twitter feed was to be believed had made much of the running in the game.

The second half followed in the vein of the first. United thought they had got back level when they bundled the ball in from close range but the ball had crossed the bye line before it was crossed back in. Then came one of those classic moments that you only get in non league football.

 The ball went out of play for a throw in to Blidworth deep inside their own half on the left handside touchline (as i viewed it from the seated stand). Now this side of the ground is fenced off by a 6 foot steel fence with spikes on the top and the ball had gone over this. The ref signalled to the Blidworth bench to throw another ball into play while the first was retrieved (the dugouts were on the same side of the pitch that the throw in was to be taken). So to this end one the young Blidworth subs decided to boot a ball to the throw in taker. However he somehow managed to boot it high enough that it took one bounce and went over the fence with the first ball. In reaction the chap waiting to take the throw shouted "Just roll it on the floor you f@@king retard". Another ball was found and the sub was sent to recover the two lost balls which wasn't easy when you are wearing shorts and trying to pick your way through thorns and bushes. Possibly not the most glamorous job in the footballing world, but a job that needed doing none the less.

Back to matters on the pitch, and Blidworth doubled their lead on 76 minutes. I would love to tell you all about it but alas i was having a piss at the time so missed the sodding goal. So it could have been a tap in or a 35 yard pile driver for all i know, what i did know was that United got very niggley when they went 2-0 down. However i did see Nottingham United force their way back into the game when Jamie Clarke was played in and slipped a cool finish under the on rushing keeper to set up a grandstand finish. Then in the last minute the home side had a golden chance to seal the win.
The sub from the previous 'ball over the fence' incident had been brought on with about 10 minutes to go and had made a couple of good runs and given the away defence plenty to think about. In the last minute after a great play to spring the offside trap and split the defence, he found himself one on one with the keeper. However he took one touch to many which gave the keeper just enough time to come out and smother him and the chance went begging. Thankfully the miss didn't cost the hosts and they claimed a famous win.

After the game i headed back to the bar for a swift pint before the Mind of an Imp blog shuttle service arrived. On my travels i have come across clubs that i wouldn't visit again and then you meet clubs that you would revisit at the drop of a hat. I am happy to say that Blidworth falls into the second category. Hopefully they will claim a few more points this season and build on it next year. If you haven't visited yet then get your arse down there. You don't know what you are missing. Great ground, great clubhouse, and a great programme. Oh, and the team can also play a bit!



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