Cat fact of the day. Abraham Lincoln kept four cats as pets in the White house.
Well its finally here. 4 weeks after my personal 2016/17 season ended in Cardiff with the Women's Champions League final, the 2017/18 season commenced with the Bassetlaw Derby as Retford United hosted Worksop Town.
Although its only been a few weeks i must confess that i have missed the pleasure of live football. There has been plenty going off in the sporting world in the meantime though. I thoroughly enjoyed a trip down to Lords this weekend just to watch Nottinghamshire win the Royal London one day cup thanks to a thrilling win over Surrey, and of course Baseball season is in full flow but you just can't beat watching random non league football games with your mates.
Football is a game of ups and downs and its fair to say that both clubs on display tonight have been experiencing the latter of the two emotions over the past few seasons. When i first got into this ground hopping lark Worksop were in the Conference north and knocking on the door of the playoffs to the Conference. Alas nowadays they are struggling to escape the clutches of the NCEL premier division despite being by far and away the biggest club in the league in terms of fan base and history. Unfortunately neither of these two factors win you football matches on their own.
Retford did escape the NCEL premier division last season but sadly at the wrong end as they suffered relegation after finishing rock bottom. There were few highlights for the Badgers last season but one of them was a fine win away at... Worksop Town. The lesson for all football fans from these two clubs is make sure you enjoy the good times because in this game (and sport in general) they seldom last.
As this was the first game of the year for many Cannon Park was full of local footballing celebrities who i haven't seen for a few months or so. Stars such as blogging legend Rob Waite, author of the marvelous 66 POW Blog was in attendance as was Ian Beech the brains behind the Retford United Supporters club; a man who has done more than anybody to keep the club together over the past few years in these tough times.
Although many of the great and good from Retford in attendance, there was one notable exception; the Godfather of Retford ground hopping and non league football, Mr Dave Wathall. The phrase legend is often bandied around way too much but it Dave's case it is truly deserved. The man has been a beacon of light to the hopping community over the years and is always ready to welcome hoppers from all over the country to Cannon Park and share a tale or two with them about the game we all love. (As well as chatting about Spurs, Lincoln, NBA basketball or any of the other clubs he is supporting at the time) All joking aside a Retford game isn't a Retford game without him and i look forward to catching up with the old boy at the Retford v Gainsborough game in a few weeks.
From legends to bellends and sadly it was a no show from Retford Imps' Lee Houseman, but otherwise the other Retford based Imps were all in attendance.
As with all pre season games you can never really take much from the results of them and at this level many players can turn out for 3 or 4 clubs over the course of the pre season. Quite often it feels like the players are assessing which club to play for instead of the clubs assessing the players. I must confess having not seen Retford (or Worksop) play in 2017 i didn't have a clue who any of the players were but there were a few good performances with the Retford goalkeeper probably being the pick of the bunch.
Retford took the lead with a goalmouth scramble on 25 minutes only to be pegged back some 9 minutes later thanks to a shot from close range that was deflected into the net. From then on Worksop had the better chances but a combination of poor finishing, bad decision making, and good goalkeeping kept the scores level.
All in all i think both sides will be happy with what they saw and the result. This early in pre season its mainly about fitness levels and on that score both sides looked in decent nick. Its impossible to use games like this to assess each side's chance of success for the upcoming season, but it looks like Retford should have a much better time of it this time around. As for Worksop, they will again be the biggest club in the NCEL and have all the pressure that goes with that. If they can get their home form right then they could mount a challenge but the crowd will need to be patient. I have been at Worksop home games when things haven't been going well and the crowd tends to get on the players backs to early thus making it even harder for the Tigers to get results.
It was great to see the lads again with much of the conversation being centered around planning jolly boys trips for the coming season with the Imps. Oh and the cats. We mustn't forget about the kitties.