Friday 10 September 2021

Sherwood Colliery 2-2 Buxton

September to me has always seemed to be the worse month of the year by far. I think it started back when I was at school as it signifies the start of another year at school and thus another year of misery for the most part. Add in the fact that as soon as September rolls around you know the long nights of summer and semi decent weather are all but gone. In COVID times its even worse as who knows what will happen over the winter both in terms of the virus and the economy here in the UK. To say I feel its an anxious time is somewhat of an understatement. However, one very small light in a sea of awfulness is that we still have football and especially the FA Cup.
There are some weeks that I don’t really start planning and looking forward to the Saturday game till Friday morning. Then there are some that as soon as the dreaded Sunday night rolls around the only thing that keeps me going and able to get up in the Morning is that thought of a match on the Saturday. This past weekend’s game between Sherwood and Buxton in the FA Cup was most defiantly in the later camp. For the past four years since I have lived alone, I have struggled with Sunday evenings. And now that the nights are drawing in, I have felt even worse with only this blog and the darts to try and keep my mind active and away from thinking about Monday and whatever shitshow the week ahead will bring. Last Sunday though after scrolling through the fixtures this game just shone out like a beacon and it is what have kept me going. The lure of the road to Wembley is strong for me and although the big clubs see this as 3rd in line after the Champions League and Premier League the FA cup carries huge significance for clubs in L1 and L2 and throughout Non-League.
Over the years I have enjoyed watching clubs have their “Big Day” so to speak in the cup. This is normally either when I club gets further than it has ever done in the Cup or is a club plays host to a side in a higher division and thus the match attracts a much larger crowd than they normally would. We experienced this last season when we watched West Bridgeford perform well on and off the pitch against Halesowen in the 1st qualifying round, the same stage as todays match.
The hosts Sherwood Colliery seem to be on a bit of a roll at the moment. They are currently top of the NCEL premier division and had already won two matches to reach this stage of the competition. In the extra preliminary round, they defeated Boston Town before causing a cup upset by beating Sheffield FC a side one division above them in a match that was streamed online by the BBC 2-1 Buxton not only sat two divisions above their hosts but (like their hosts) were also sitting top of their division. Buxton is a ground that I have only visited once before but it does have the rare distinction of being one of the few grounds that Lee Houseman has attended a game at all be it about a decade ago when we watched Buxton take on Macclesfield in a pre-season friendly.
Sherwoods Debdale Park stadium is located just behind Mansfield Woodhouse train station. The road up to the ground seemed quite busy but thankfully there was plenty of room in the station carpark. Walking up to the ground it was obvious that the game had attracted a good crowd with the bar and food hut doing a roaring trade. It looked like plenty of locals had taken the opportunity of watching a side top of the league and on a great cup run. Let’s be honest it’s a long time since the good folk of Mansfield had the chance of witnessing such a feat. Buxton too had travelled in good numbers so a good atmosphere was pretty much guaranteed. Today’s admission was £5 with a well-produced programme coming in a £2. Club pin badges were also available at £3. On paying you entrance fee a club official stamped you hand in a throw back to the days of going up the Poterhouse and various other clubs. It brought a tear to Felices eye and memories of him being a Thursday-Friday-Saturday man up the Doghouse wearing black slip on shoes with white socks in the midd 90, s.
Buxton were quickly into their stride and looked good in possession with Sherwood looking to hit them on the break. Buxton may have had more of the ball, but they didn’t get to many shots in on target. Sherwood weren’t being played off the park, but their decision was letting them down from time to time in their efforts to hit on the counter. The main excitement in the first 20 minutes came when one of the linesmen had the ball hit at him from point blank range thus breaking his flag. The game was held for a good five minutes as a replacement was found. Buxton eventually took the lead on 27 minutes following a free kick that was lofted into the box and finished off from close range by Clarke. The visitors held onto the lead until the break and at that point in the game you have to say it was deserved. The rest of the first half continued in much the same vein with Buxton having more of the ball but Sherwood defending well when the visitors got within 25 yards or so of their goal and pressing well as a group. You can tell they are well coached and worked well for each other even if their discipline occasionally let them down.
At halftime we had a stroll around the ground and made a quick visit to the clubhouse, naturally the clubhouse was very busy, but it looked smart enough even thought there were a few to many Mansfield Town pictures for my liking. They do have a few dartboards up though which is always great to see. Buxton doubled their lead on 53 minutes when Ash Chambers chested home a cross from a foot out. At that point the game looked to be over. But this is football, and this is the FA Cup If Sherwood were going to get back into the match, then they needed to strike back straight away which is exactly what they did when Liam Theakstone finished off a great move when he turned in the cross from the left wing. Suddenly the crowd came to life and Sherwood started to believe again. Two minutes later they were level thanks to a great finish from Gareth Curtis. We now had a real cup tie on our hands and they game was genuinely end to end stuff. Both sides started to look good from corners and free kicks. The game really deserved a winner but alas it finished 2-2. Both clubs can take huge credit from this with the 400 plus in attendance definitely getting their money’s worth.
If you get the chance to visit Sherwood Colliery, I do recommend you give them a visit. Its easy to get to, the clubhouse is smart, they sell programmes and badges. Oh, and the team arnt half bad either.

Monday 30 August 2021

Retford United 1-2 Club Thorne

Sometimes I have my weekends planned well in advance football wise. However, this weekend I wasn’t sure if I would make a game at all as I was teaching a Nunhuck seminar in Lincoln. Something I had been looking forward to doing for a few weeks. As my life has been in a rut for the past few years I have needed a new project to get my teeth into and although darts has filled some of this void I don’t want to be drawn into spending all my time in the pub (much fun as that would be and as much as I would enjoy it) I do like to practice at home a few evenings each week but I still have plenty of free time and a potential return to Taekwondo coaching could be a way to give me a much needed purpose in life once again. Having got back into the ghetto at 1.30 it gave me time to get changed nip into town to get the cats some treats and make my way up to Cannon Park who were taking on Thorne a club that I have a lot of time for and that have been “There or there abouts” for the past couple of seasons in the CML North as have the hosts Retford United. I choose to take the scenic route to Cannon Park walking along the cannel and arriving just after 2.30.
One of the things that I have noticed over the years is that there are basically three types of clubs in Step 7. Firstly, you have clubs that are having their first crack at Saturday football and are a more organised version of a pub team playing at a very basic ground which in many cases is a roped off pitch with players that are just happy to be playing Saturday football (and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that at all) More often than not these clubs fold after a year or two or merge with other local teams. Next you have clubs that are happy to be a Step 7 club and don’t have to budget to spend on the ground but always turn out a competitive side and often have decades of history at this level and set themselves up as real community clubs with thriving youth sections. Then you have clubs that are looking to get out of step 7 as soon as they can in order to advance up the pyramid. Often these are traditional clubs with classic old school grounds that played at a higher level in days gone by or clubs that have had a decent amount of investment in order to bring the ground up to scratch. The biggest challenge is for clubs to install floodlights as they are a requirement at Step 6. The two teams on show today are most definitely focused on taking the next step and getting out of the CML North and are defiantly in the third category.
Before the game I held the view that the CML North will be a three-horse race between Retford, Thorne and Clay Cross with Nathon Arnolds Newark Town being a possible Darkhorse and having watched this game I have no reason to change my mind. All four clubs would be great additions and thrive as a Step 6 club but with only one promotion place up for grabs it will be a real scrap to get out of this league. Going into this match both sides had a 100% record with Thorne having won all five of their fixtures and Retford having won all three of theirs so on paper we knew it was going to be a good match. We saw these two teams lock horns in the first game of last season when Retford hit two late goals to record a 1-2 away win in match that was very competitive.
It’s been quite a while since I had been up to Cannon Park with my last visit being the Retford derby a couple of years ago. Back then the ground was looking a little tired, but it does seem to have been given a lick of paint and it seems a tad smarter even if the structure remains the same. Although I wouldn’t class myself as a regular attendee over the years, I do remember some fun times up there with the FA Cup 4th qualifying round match against Alfterton Town back in 2008 being the high point. The Badgers lost 3-1 that day with over 1,500 fans being present. With pretty much every man and his dog who had the remotest interest in football in the town showing up. Back in the early to mid-2000s most local Football League sides send teams down here for pre-season games with the likes of Doncaster, Sheffield United, Chesterfield and of course the Imps all rocking up at some point over the years. Some things never change however as the first person we saw on arriving at the ground was Mr Retford United and Groundhopping legend Dave Wathall who was on fine form and on the hunt for a team sheet. If you are ever looking for a random game and want to know anything about Retford United past just ask Dave, the man is a mine of information, always happy to help find a team sheet and chat about the good old days.
Today’s admission was the CML norm £3 with a programme costing a further £1. We headed over the food hut and sampled a wonderful chip butty which was very nice and no doubt the Duke of Edinburgh would have approved off. The club seem to have done up the club shop which had a nice range of programmes, and the club house looks like it has had a lick of paint too. We took out food and settled in to watch the match from the seated area on the far side of the ground. Looking at the teamsheet we got a reminder of how old we were. Back in 98/99 Lincoln were starting their 1st season in the 3rd tier of English football for Christ knows how long with the big summer signing being striker Leo Forutne-West, a player that had always looked great against the Imps and battered them into submission for Gillingham at the first home game of the 1995/96 season. As soon as Lincoln signing him, I was sure they would stay up and he would score bucket loads of goals in the Red and White. Sadly, it didn’t work out for Leo at Lincoln and his was transferred within a couple of months. He had a great career in the game though scoring goals pretty much everywhere he went. Today his son lined up for the visitors with Leo in the crowd watching on. He still looks in great shape and dare I say he would properly be better up front that what Lincoln have now with the current injury crisis at the club.
We didn’t have to wait long for the first goal as the hosts took the lead in the 7th minute thanks to a header from Bruno Holden. It was one of those headers that seems to hang in the air for what seemed like ages, but it nestled right in the corner just beyond the outstretched arm of the keeper. As the game wore on a couple of things became apparent. Firstly, these are two very good teams with no quarter asked and none given and secondly that the ref was a tad whistle happy which didn’t let the game flow and thus it became littered with freekicks. In truth neither keeper had much to do in the way of proper saves and a close game was always on the cards. On 36 minutes Thorne got their equaliser thanks to a great volley from Evan Fortune-West. It was no more than the visitors deserved and the next five minutes turned the game on its head. On 37 minutes Retford main goal threat Mark West suffered a knock and had to be substituted. Whenever I have seen the Badgers much of their good attacking play come through him and when he plays well the team tend to play well. Then on 41 Thorne took the lead thanks to a dreadful own goal when the Retford full back under pressure from Morgan Brown hit a back pass then slowly trickled past the dive of the keeper and into the bottom of the net. It was a tough one to take for the hosts but from an attacking point of view it’s another example of chasing lost causes and never giving up.
Halftime rolled around which was our cue to take a stroll around the ground and check the latest scores. The Imps were busy getting their asses handed to them and trailed Oxford 2-0 at the break which was a surprise to exactly nobody. Its still early in the season of course but I feel this Lincoln season will be more like 19/20 than 20/21. Let’s just hope to God its better than 98/99. The second half seemed to fly by with very few real chances for neither and more whistle happy refereeing. As the game petered out Retford started to run out of ideas and Thorne happy to try and play on the counter. Sorry for the rather brief description of the second half but sadly not a lot happen. Thorne saw the game out and thus laid down an early marker in the battle for the title. But obviously there is still plenty of football to be played. Well, that’s it till next time. The Imps have a blank Saturday coming up so we will be back on the non-league scene somewhere but as to where… Who knows?

Monday 23 August 2021

Hucknall Town 2-2 Aylestone Park

After a few weeks of watching the Imps, it was time to get back on the non-league scene this weekend. Although I have enjoyed watching the Imps, I was more than happy to get back watching non-league and the feeling you get when watching a random game often at a new ground between two teams that for the most part you know very little about and often with either a beer in hand.
Today seeing how Felice was in Nottingham and Baz at work it made sense for me to meet Felice in Nottingham (a city that the Duke of Edinburgh had visited several times over the years) and then go to a game from there. To get to Nottingham from Retford you have two choices by public transport either the train or the bus. The train is quicker by roughly half and hour but just over double the price. Therefore, I decided to take the bus it may take just over 2 hours but its quite relaxing winding through many Nottinghamshire villages on route to the city. The bus came in at 12.25 and the plan was to meet up with Felice at 2.00pm then head over to the game. This gave me an hour and a half to kill, in times gone by I would just have headed to a pub somewhere. But with the early football kick offs not being very appealing I thought I would take a stroll around the city centre and try to find some rare post boxes but alas all that I could find were a handful of ER II era ones. The most common in the UK.
As a city I really like Nottingham and it is a city I would dearly love to spend more time in. What it seems to lack in vintage post-boxes it more than makes up for in geeky shops, bars that cater for all tastes and stylish women so basically the opposite of what Retford sadly has to offer. On the plus side Retford does have 4 of the 6 different Royal Crests on post-boxes that you can see in the UK so its swings and roundabouts, eh? Our original plan had been to watch Bilbrough Town take on Sandiace Town in the NSL but this game suffered a last minute change of venue to one that we had been to in the not to distant past. This meant we had to change our plans. I want to give whoever runs the Bilbrough twitter account a hat tip for letting us know. Little things like that leave a good impression on people and we will most definitely be heading over to watch them at some point this season. With Felice spending quite a bit of time in Nottingham I am sure plenty of chances will present themselves and I look forward to visiting them.
The match chosen was Hucknall Town v Aylestone Park in the UCL division one (Step 6 of the pyramid) I have been to Hucknall before, but it would have been around ten years ago or so watching them play the Imps in a pre-season friendly match. I don’t remember much about the game apart from 1) I had an all-day session in Nottingham pregame and 2) Baz bottled the game to take in Retford v Worksop. I think the Imps won but I couldn’t be sure. I do remember us getting into a social club with cheap beer after the match in Hucknall but again I couldn’t tell you what it was called. Today’s entry fee was a reasonable £5 with a smart programme costing £2. Hucknall have had a tough time over the past decade having dropped from the hights of the conference north and an FA Trophy final to the CML. It does appear though that the club is on the way back up and the club must be one of the best supporter sides at step 6 in England. The ground appears to have changed very little since I was last here but with a new stadium on the way its not surprising. I do like it however as it’s a proper old school ground. The clubhouse is a cracker too with a decent range of beers and club merchandise available. There is also a separate hatch selling food, I didn’t eat anything myself but Felice stuffed his chip butty down in record time so I can assume it was decent. I did have a cup of tea that is an early contender for cuppa of the season as it was a cracker.
So, onto the game itself. A quick glance at the league table in the programme told us that Aylestone Park sat top of the division collecting 10 points from their 4 games. Hucknall had collected 6 points from their opening 3 games winning two and losing one. It was obvious early on that both sides were looking to get on the front foot early. We didn’t have to wait long for the first goal as the visitors won a freekick in the 4th minute on their right. The ball was fired into the boxand with the Hucknall defence not being switched on it allowed Ben Tansey to finish well leaving the keeper rooted to the spot. When a side concedes early there is always a worry that they will buckle but credit to Town as they went straight back on the attack and on 8 minutes they were level thanks to a header from former Imp Liam Hearn. Hearn was one of the better pre-Cowley era players in the Imps non-league years so its great to see him still involved in the game. On 27 minutes the hosts took the lead with another well taken goal thanks to Sam Sims. The game had been end to end all half only broken up by some clinical fouls from both sides. Aylestone were back level just before halftime on 42 minutes following great work on the right wing allowed Shay Brennen to finish from close range.
With it being 2-2 at halftime we needed a pint or two in the bar to calm down. In the bar we checked the scores elsewhere to find that the Imps were losing 0-1 at Wycombe. I wasn’t very confident of the Imps getting anything at Adams Park before the match and when I saw they had gone 1 down after 3 minutes all hope had pretty much gone.
You very rarely get two very good halves in a football match and sadly this followed that pattern. It was for no lack of trying and both sides went at it hammer and tongue to get a winner. The main talking point of the second half came when Lee Barratt was shown a second yellow card for an aerial challenge. Hucknall forced a flurry of corners late in the game but just lacked that final touch in the box. The game finished 2-2 and although both sides will feel that could and should have won it, I think secretly they were both glad that they didn’t lose it. I thoroughly enjoyed this match, and it was the perfect tonic after a dull week where I got nowhere fast. If you get a chance to watch either of these sides, then don’t pass up that opportunity, on this showing you won’t be disappointed.
We caught the final minutes of the Imps game on the radio as Lincoln went down to Wycombe with barely a whimper. With Oxford and Rotherham coming up next in the league I have a feeling its going to get worse before it gets better for Lincoln. As for us I am not at a game this coming Saturday so hopefully I can bag a midweek game somewhere. Till next time.

Thursday 19 August 2021

Back at the Bank.

Finally, we are allowed to go back to Sincil Bank. And not only once but twice in four days. As the week leading up to the first home game against Fleetwood ticked over in slowly sank in that we would be going back to watch professional football. The more I thought about it however relief overtook excitement as my main emotion. Relief that by the grace of God I am still alive and able to attend whereas many thousands here in the UK and around the world are sadly not and won’t be able to receive a vaccine for a while let. I still think the virus has a trick or two up its sleeve however so my aim is to enjoy every game as much as I can and never take going to football for granted. As impressive as the vaccine roll out has been across Europe and North America still only 15% of the world’s population has had at least one shot of a vaccine.
So, what are my expectations for the Imps this season? Its quite simple and maybe a tad on the boring and conservative side but it is to simply to remain a League One side at the end of the season. This may sound negative after being 90 minutes away from the Championship last season, but I have a few reasons for this. This will be Lincolns third season at League One level since promotion and should they survive it I think its fair to say the Imps would be an established League One side and for as long as I have supported the Imps I have always though of that as a decent and realistic goal that is within the club’s expectations and budget. Obviously, it would be great to get to the Championship at some point but for now I think becoming a fixture in the top half of the League One table would be a decent steppingstone. Long term I could see the Imps becoming a Rotherham or Doncaster kind of club that is a solid top 6 League One side that has the odd flirt with the Championship, but I think that is a year or two off. Furthermore, with Notts County and Chesterfield in the National League and Mansfield in League 2 it makes Lincoln along with Burton on of the most attractive clubs in the midlands for the large Championship midlands clubs to send players out on loan to and to even attempt to sign players from those clubs. If the Imps were to drop back into League Two it would set the club back in recruiting players from these kind of clubs. Over the past week or so the Imps have been publicizing the improvements that have been made to the ground over the past few months and I have to say that they have done a pretty good job. The first thing you notice when you approach the ground is the expanded “Fan village” this is basically more outdoor drinking and eating areas. There is now a good array of choice, and the food does look pretty good. My choice of pre-match football will always be chip shop for Saturday games or Kebab for the night ones. For the first game against Fleetwood the Chip shop was our port of call. I have to say it was kind of disappointing as the chips were slightly undercooked. However, they were still consumed with great enthusiasm.
First up for the Imps was Fleetwood Town. Many have tipped the “Cod Army” to struggle this season, but they made life difficult for the Imps right from the start. Over the years the Imps have often struggled to break down sides that come to Sincil Bank looking for a point and I have no problem with sides doing this. One of the first aims in football is if you can’t win the game then don’t lose it. If any side is going to be successful than finding a way to beat sides than defend deep (Or in a low block as the trendy kids like to say” is paramount. We say how important it was during the 2016/17 National League title winning season when the Imps simply physically battered teams into submission with direct play and superior fitness. This Lincoln City team is a much different beast with a playing the ball out from the back and maintaining possession mindset and although the fitness levels are excellent so are all the clubs in League One. The National League this isn’t.
The Imps have lost a lot of creativity over the summer with the likes of Grant, Rodgers and Johnson leaving the club so its going to take a while for the Imps to gel in the attacking part of their game. The Imps had more of the ball but didn’t really make any clear-cut chances in the first half. Fleetwood took the lead on 32 minutes when Andrews scored a peach of a free kick which left Griffiths grasping at fresh air. It was a quality strike and reminiscent of the free kick I fired past Felice back in the old Retford and District 5 a side league, a goal which I still get asked about from time to time to this day. The goal failed to spark the Imps into life sadly and it was Fleetwood who took the lead into the break.
It was obvious that if the Imps were going to get anything from the game, they would need to show the same cunning and bravery that the Duke of Edinburgh showed at the battle of Scilly in 1943. Alas as the game wore on my hopes faded of getting a point. The two bright points for the Imps all game long had been the contributions of Tayo Eden and Antony Scully and it was that burst into the box on 69 minutes. At first sight at the ground, it looked like a close-range goal but it wasn’t till I watched I appreciated the quality of the finish. The Imps were now the only side that looked likely to bag the winner and this they did on 87 minutes when Scully converted from the penalty spot. Lincoln just about deserved the win in the end but my feeling at the way home was that there was much work to do if they were to break down sides looking to “Shut up shop” as it were.
A few days later the Imps were brought back down to earth and given a reminder on how tough League One is as Bolton Wanderers took all three points at the Bank. Lincoln were by no means outclassed but Bolton were just a little bit better all over the pitch. From a Lincoln point of view, it was an awful goal to lose and one that Griffiths won’t want to see again as he was hopelessly out of position. It must be said though that Lincoln had several chances to clear the danger in the build up to the goal. It’s been a tough start to the season for the new Imps number one, I am not saying he has been garbage by any means, but he needs a clean sheet to give his confidence a boost. It also must be said that he is playing behind an Imps makeshift back four and one that at times plays a little too much football instead of just booting it out for a throw in. However, as the Imps get defenders back and the team gel more, I expect we will se these mistakes ironed out.
So that’s that. Three games down, 4 points on the board and the Imps tucked in midtable. Not a terrible start all things considered even if the only real high point from the Bolton game was the pre-game kebab. We won’t be seeing the Imps for a few weeks as we hit the non-league scene in the local area. However, there will be plenty of darts, beer, bad food and awkwardly seeing a girl you took out a handful of times earlier in the year but got told she wasn’t ready for anything more with another guy in a pub in town on a Saturday night. On to the next.

Wednesday 11 August 2021

Gillingham 1-1 Lincoln City



The first game of the season is always one of the highpoints of the season and something that fans of all clubs from Real Madrid to Ashland Rovers all look forward to as soon as the fixtures are released. For this season though it seems even more special for several reasons.

I will start with the obvious one. Apart from last seasons playoff final this is the first Lincoln game I have attended since the Imps beat Burton 3-2 back in March 2020. Added to that it is the first Lincoln away game I have been to since a 3-1 kicking at Sunderland on the 4th of January 2020 (My birthday no less) It is also over a year since Baz, Felice and myself all attended the same match which given how many games we have done together since 1999 seems a totally crazy statistic. There have been plenty of false dawns during the pandemic and I for one am not thinking that this whole shit show is over but it does feel like better times may just be upon us and just getting to spend a day with friends, taking the piss out of each other all day, eating bad food and watching 22 blokes kick a bag of wind about for 90 plus minutes seems like a big step back on the road to recovery and something I don’t think fans up and down the land will take for granted again in a hurry.

Another reason is that I have always felt there is something special about being away from home on the first day of the season and have always thought its an advantage to be away on the opening weekend. My theory for this is that if you lose an away game, you have a home game next up to get back on track quickly. Get a poor result at home you then have one (or sometimes) two away games up next and normally most sides find results away from home harder to get than ones played in their home stadiums. Thus, a home defeat can quickly turn into 2 or 3 games without a win and whilst its true the league is a marathon and not a sprint its always important to get that first win just to calm everybody down and keep both morale and confidence high.  Over the past few years Lincoln seem to have had quite a few “Home openers” as my American friends would say with only one away opener since Lincoln came back into the Football League in the 17/18 season.

Thirdly over the years we have had some great trips on the opening day of the season. Ranging from the jolly boy’s weekend at Bournemouth in 99(which ended in a 0-2 defeat), the start of the Keith era at Kidderminster (1-1) and the two wins in the respective recent title winning seasons, Woking (3-1) in 2016/17 and Northampton (1-0) in 2018/19) The last time Lincoln were away on opening day was the 1-1 draw at Wycombe on the Imps return to the football league in 2017/18.  I can honestly only remember two duff away trips on the opening day of the season and they both came at the Don Valley stadium when Rotherham beat Lincoln both times when Jacko was in the dugout in 2008/09 and Chris Sutton in 2010/11. The Don Valley was the worse ground I have ever watched League football at (it’s even a contender to the worse place I have watched football at full stop) and given Lincolns record at Rotherham is dogshit its perhaps not surprise that both trips were stinkers.

The Don Valley. An awful place to watch football.

The final reason is a more personal one and nothing to do with football. Being single now for over a year and for the second time in 4 years I have found Saturday night and all-day Sunday to be by far the most challenging for me mentally. For some reason Saturday seems to be couples’ night in pubs etc and has a different feel that other nights of the week. Add in the fact that Saturday TV is to be blunt shite it all adds for an awful feeling once the post-match reaction football shows have finished on the wireless. I mean I could paint Warhammer models and knock back a few German Biers, but this seems to only add to the sense that my life now seems a million miles away from somebody who is 42. With this match being a decent length journey wise it was a most welcome respite from this world I have been living in since May 2020. It means more conversations for longer into the day and generally keeping my mind was thinking about random crap.

With my personal income still reduced due to the pandemic I am having to think carefully about away games and before the season I drew up a priority list of away games that I would like to attend. This was before the fixtures was announced and was based purely on grounds I hadn’t yet visited or grounds that I knew would be great trips. Its fair to say that Gillingham were low on the list and had this not been on opening or closing day or a relegation or promotion decided I would have given this a bigger swerve than Felice gave Nantwich town and Colyn Bay. This is not a particular slur on Gillingham as a place, it’s just that there are about 20 odd places in this division that I would rather visit. I have only been to “The land of shouting men” once before and that was to see Lincoln take all 3 points back in 2008/09 on a cold evening game courtesy of a last-minute winner. I don’t remember much about that night bar the winner, a cracking goal from Geoff Horsfield and some decent pre-match fish and chips.

But that was 2009 and this is 2021 so on with the show as it were.

Alas much of the back end of the of the past week had been waiting for the tickets to arrive. For the vast majority of games these days tickets are required to be bought in advance instead of paying cash on the gate thus it means ordering tickets in advance and waiting for the jolly postie to deliver them. For the past 4 seasons this has been fine, and I have encountered zero problems ordering said match tickets. However due to Gillingham sending the tickets late it meant that tickets only went on sale 8 days before the match. And when it got to Thursday and the tickets still hadn’t shown up, I must admit I was a tad nervous. A quick check on twitter however seemed to prove that many others were in the same boat. This seems to be down to the fact that the post office is having a few staffing issues at the moment. Having put out a tweet about it I received a couple of condescending replies about being in a pandemic which completely missed the point of my original tweet. In much the same way England’s top three batsman have been missing the ball in England’s test matches this summer.

Then just after 1.00pm it was announced that the event of any tickets not arriving Gillingham would be able to re-print them off at the away upon arrival. Now on the one hand this was great news, but I must admit that at the back of my mind was the feeling that things could still go tits up. As most fans who are well travelled in the footballing world will tell you away stewards etc can be known to make things as awkward as the can for away fans. However, I am delighted to say that the chap dealing with this at the away turnstiles was first class and gaining admission to the ground was a doodle.

The day featured a 10am departure time and with the spirit of the Duke Of Edinburgh in our hearts we made good time.  The only real awkward part with a trip to Gillingham is that parking appears to be a bit of a pain in the arse. We arrived just before 2pm and it took a good 15-20 mins to find a space. It’s one of those grounds where local knowledge would be a bonus. Failing that some pre-journey research would have helped, alas we had neither. We did manage to get parked up about 10 minutes’ walk from the ground, but I wouldn’t have liked to rock up 30 mins before kick off and be looking for somewhere to park. However awkward they are too park at I much prefer grounds to be in the centre of the town that on the outskirts with nothing but overpriced fast-food outlets surrounding them.  


As todays blog is a tad longer than normal, I will go into my thoughts and expectations for the Imps this season on next weeks blog and just talk a little about this match. Before a ball was kicked, I would have taken a point at Gillingham. The Gills are managed by fan favourite Steve Evans of whom plenty has been written about so there is no need for me to add to the coverage he gets. What I will say though is you know that apart from all the touchline antics and mind games he comes out with you know his sides will be organised and have a game plan. It’s a very basic plan and its one that a “Footballing mind” should be able to out coach in theory but in reality, a very tough one to overcome and requires a lot of mental strength not to fall into his traps. In a way it’s like the John Beck system but not quite as good. Steve Evans may have lost his knack of getting teams promoted and you can forget about blooding youngsters into a team (see his work, or lack of it at Mansfield for this) but he won’t get a club relegated and will just about keep them in the hunt for a top half finish.

Lincoln started the game much the better side and were knocking the ball around nicely. After not being at games for so long it took a while to work out who was who etc but that didn’t really matter as it just felt fantastic to be back at a game. When the Imps took the lead after only four minutes it felt like they would pick up where they left off last season after having the best away record in League One. Sadly, from our perspective Gillingham started to get into the game and it wasn’t a huge surprise when they equalized one minute before the break. It was a sloppy goal to conceded and only just squirmed over the line, but they all count as they say. Quite often in football a goal just before halftime can really be a hammer blow for the side that conceded it but thankfully this Lincoln side is made of sterner stuff. There were one or two half chances for the hosts in the second half but at the final whistle a point each was fair in my view. I know todays write up on the actual game was brief but today felt more about the day than the game is you get my drift.


We had decided that we would be eating post game instead of pre match given that none of us had any plans for the evening (That’s been the story of my life for much of the last 18 months) Gillingham didn’t really appeal as a place to dine and once you get to the A1 motorway heading north you are very limited, so we decided to head for the town of Bishop Storford to get our first kebab of the season. Back in 2010 Baz and I attended a pre-season game between Bishop Storford and Lincoln and had a pre-game kebab at the wonderfully named “Kebabery” takeaway. After a quick detour to park up at Sainsburys we were soon munching on large Lamb donners that came in at £8.50 and came will tubs of sauce and salad for you to add yourself instead of being poured on by the chef. Somehow this made them taste even better.

So, all in all a decent start to the season. The Imps didn’t lose, we ate well, and fun was had by all. After the past 18 months today felt better and hopefully a sign of things to come. Now if England could just get better at batting and a could get a reply from a facebook message or two that I have sent then things really will be looking up!





Sunday 1 August 2021

Retford FC 0-3 Parkgate


Retford FC 0-3 Parkgate


In truth this this was my third game of the season having taken in Gainsborough v Lincoln and Kirkton Brickworks v Ashland Rovers reserves over the past couple of weeks, however I wanted to start this year’s blog when the real action started and with today’s game being on the opening weekend of the NCEL season it felt like the right time to start blogging. I managed to keep the blog up to date last season until lockdown 3 put the brakes on the 20/21 season so I am relatively confident I will be able to do the same this season if the COVID situation remains relatively under control (and by that, I mean not the total chaos it has been in the UK for the past 16 months). Plus given that my dating life is still a total shitshow I should have plenty of time to write and hopefully enjoy both life and writing once again.

The weekend has got off to a decent start on Friday. Over the various lockdowns I have been busy practicing darts ahead of playing for the White Lion this upcoming season and after a decent showing at an inhouse knockout Tuesday another win was recorded on Friday evening.  This was followed by ordering tickets for the Imps opening game of the season at the shit tip of Gillingham next weekend. Since most Imps away games when all ticket ordering the tickets has been my job for the Retford Imps Cateraday club and one that I am very good at if I do say so myself. Not only that but given Felice is to computers what Bella my cat is to speaking Latin it’s a good job that I am. Everybody needs an Adam in their life.


Whenever I check in on Retford FC’s social media channels the club is always doing something new be it building up the club’s structure on the playing side or completing work on the Rail ground itself. Over the long break the club appear to have added a hospitality area and bar which are most welcome.

 To go along with this some covered standing has been built along the side of the pitch which has fixed the grounds only real draw back up until now. I have always had a soft spot for this ground due to playing a handful of games for the BRSA cricket team 2nd X1 way back in the early 90’s that played on the pitch behind where the ground is now. Indeed, one of my favourite memories is as a fresh faced 14-year-old clean bowling Felice when he was in his mid 20’s with three balls of my left arm medium pace reverse swing being too much for him. I remember telling the story of this part of Retford sporting folk law to a girl working in a chip shop in Colchester before an Imps game a few seasons ago alas it’s hard to see who was more unimpressed, her or Baz. The Fish and Chips were very nice though.

Today’s entrance fee was £5 with a further quid for the programme. There has been a lot of chatter about the future of matchday programmes and if they still have a place in the game these days. In my humble opinion they absolutely do. If you need any more proof just check out the @NonLgeProgs account on twitter to see the great range of programmes being produced up and down the country was clubs at all levels of the pyramid. For the record FC’s programme was more than adequate for the first game of the season and it goes without saying you show buy one of you ever visit “The Rail”

The NCEL has always been a tough league and Retford sadly found that out again going 0-2 down in five minutes. The first being slotting home by Sam Ackroyd following some poor defending after only a couple of minutes, a tough start for the hosts that was going to get a tad harder 3 minutes later.

The second Parkgate goal was one of those moments that happens once in a hundred games or so when the keeper was caught in possession by Ackroyd closing him down thus losing the ball and allowing the striker to roll the ball into an empty net. In the modern game lots of teams don’t bother to chase down so-called lost causes but as Parkgate showed if you do you can reap the rewards. Now obviously it’s never great news for a team to go 0-2 down after five minutes but as ever in life it’s how you react to setbacks that defines you and to their credit Retford did stick their passing style and tried to get a foothold in the game. Parkgate however are experienced campaigners at this level and were perfectly happy to let Retford have possession until the final 3rd then win the ball back and hit them with a digital ball over the top. This led to Parkgate have the better of the chances to add to their lead with the one of note crashing down off the inside of the cross bar but thankfully for the hosts not crossing the line.

Halfway through the 1st half I felt  it was a good time  to grab a beer in the bar area and have a quick word with Martin Keeton who has worked tirelessly for FC over the years and a man that has forgotten more about local football than most people will ever know, the old chap was in good spirts about the club despite the score and was (rightly) proud of the progress the club is making both on and off the pitch. FC continued to plug away but found clear chances hard to come by with the best chance falling to the impressive Dembele just before halftime when his curling shot was tipped around the near post by the Parkgate Keeper.

The second half followed much the same pattern as the first with Retford having more of the ball but not really creating chances of note. It got worse for the home side on 63 minutes when Bennet was sent off for an off the ball incident. I must confess I missed it so can add little more to it than that. Parkgate rounded off an impressive performance on 75 when Ackroyd drilled a low shot into the far corner to complete the scoring and his hattrick.

It’s obvious to say that this wasn’t the start to the season that Retford FC wanted but I always try and find positives in life and the big one for FC was the crowd which looked to me to be well over 200 including local pub landlord legend Graham Ince amongst many others. On the pitch it was a rough afternoon, but you must tip your hat to Parkgate who were the better side on the day and look to be a much-improved side from recent seasons.

In fact, the NCEL Division one looks like being a tasty league to watch this season with plenty of local interest now that Shirebrook, , Ollerton  and others have all joined its ranks. After League One and the Regionalliga Nordost it could well be the league, I keep an eye on the most. And its one that you should most definitely to. I always like to follow the Scottish Premiership but given the results on day one that league could already be over. …

Sunday 11 October 2020

Bourne Town 0-4 Loughborough University

Monday evening saw us visit Sheffield Town FC to watch their Under 21 team take on (and beat) Retford United U21 The final score being 3-1 and it could have been a bigger margin of victory if truth be told had it not been for a great display of goal keeping from the Retford  keeper. I didn’t hear the attendance number but there was around 150 people watching and the best atmosphere i have ever experienced at a youth game. It’s been a tough start to the season for the two main Sheffield Clubs with the City's leading club Sheffield United starting the season losing every game in the Premiership so far and the city's  second club Sheffield Wednesday propping up the Championship (due in no small part to starting the season on -12 points) So it’s good to see a good news story in the form of Sheffield Town FC. I tip my hat to them.

Saturday began the way that every Saturday should; having a breakfast in the White Lion and catching up on the latest news in the paper, this morning however something different was going on in the pub. Saturday the 10th of October was world national mental health day and as such the pub had allowed a local mental health support group called Muddy Fork  who people could meet, talk with and find out about the group, what they do and how they can get involved. Mental Health is a huge topic at the moment and thankfully it is now starting to be taken seriously. My own mental health has taken a huge battering over the past few months what with COVID and the economic impact it has had on my life, getting dumped via text message during lockdown and the sobering thought i am now 41 and living alone with two cats. Not really where i planned on being at this stage of my life. To know there are organisations like this are a huge help and if anybody in the Retford area who feel they need somebody to talk to i strongly suggest they check them out. They can be found here Muddy Fork wellbeing


Today’s game saw us taking in the FA Vase second qualifying round tie between Bourne Town v Loughborough University. Bourne play their football in the United Counties League division one and have collected three wins, two draws and three defeats from their opening eight games and currently sit in eleventh place in the table (out of twenty clubs) There opponents Loughborough University play a league higher in the United Counties Premier division and are currently sixth having won four drawn one and lost two matches so far this season. On paper it looked like a tough game for Bourne and that’s exactly how it turned out.

We picked this game to take in today because the home side are currently managed by former Lincoln City player Nathan Arnold. The 2016/17 season will go down in history as one of the finest seasons in the clubs history. The Imps won the National League that season with Arnold playing a huge role in it. The two moments that really stand out for me are his famous last minute goal that gave the Imps the win over Ipswich Town in the FA Cup 3rd round reply and another last minute goal when he bagged the winner away at Gateshead, a goal which all but gave the Imps the title and broke  Tranmere Rovers hearts in the process.

Bourne is a sleepy little place in the south of Lincolnshire with the journey taking a little over an hour from Retford. On the way we discussed England’s comprehensive midweek win over Wales. It was a tough one for Felice to take given he always wanted to sing with the Pontypridd male voice choir and failing miserably. All joking apart i have always wanted to do some non league hopping in Wales; sadly my goons don’t feel the same so it looks like i will have to do a weekend in Wales at some point once all the COIVD bollocks is over. Beer, a new ground or two and kebabs what could be better? Plus i have to admit the Welsh accent is my favorite in the UK. Come get me you Welsh ladies.

We pulled up opposite the ground and a little after 2.30. There were plenty of cars around so it looked like a decent crowd had turned up for the match. The continued ban on fans attending games in the Football League seems to be benefiting non league clubs as we saw a handful of people wearing Peterborough United hats/ coats in on the quick walk up to the ground. Admission was £5 for adults with a raffle tick costing an extra quid. The ground is dominated by a proper old school style stand covering two thirds of the near touchline. Half of this is a covered terrace with the other half consisting of wooden benches. The dugouts are in front of the stands and the clubhouse and toilets below it. As is the way of the world right now there is a one-way system in the clubhouse with drinks served via table service. The rest of the ground is open with hard standing all the way around. All in all it’s a tidy little set up. The cricket ground is behind the near goal that you enter in and the bowls club is behind the touchline opposite the main stand. All in all it’s a nice area but i imagine that it’s annoying for the folks playing bowls when stray footballs get booted out of the ground and onto the Bowls pitch.

About 10 minutes’ before the kick off the heavens opened up so we took cover in the stands. About 5 minutes into the match the rain stopped so we made our way round to stand behind the goal that Loughborough were attacking.

Bourne lined up playing five across the back but sadly it wasn’t enough to stop their much quicker opponents. They had already missed several half chances by the time they took the lead in the 13th minute. The visitors had been causing problems with their pace and they finally made the breakthrough when Tope Fabamunsi was sent through and coolly finished a one on one against the goalkeeper.  On 17 it was two nill when Ronan Silva applied the finish after a neat passing move. The hosts were putting in plenty of effort but were really struggling to get a foothold in the game. The visitors could have had a third when Loughbrough cut through again , the shot beat the keeper only for Scott Lock (who was by far the team’s best defender on the pitch) made a last ditch goal line clearance to keep his side just about in the tie. Arnold had selected himself to start the match and you could easily see why as he was head and shoulders above the rest of his players quality wise. The visitors had looked very impressive with number nine Tope Fabamunsi really catching the eye.

Half time called for a gentle walk around the ground and a visit to the tea hut for a hot drink. There looked to be a decent crowd in and i hoped that the home team would raise their game in the second half and give them something to cheer. Alas that didn’t happen.

On 50 minutes Bourne had a great chance to get back into the match when a Cummings cross was narrowly headed wide by Arnold, it was a chance that could have changed the game but a minute later Loughborough sealed the game when they added a third curtsey of a quick breakaway allowing Silva to grab his second of the game. The game now became much more even although the visitors still had the better of the chances. Things got even harder for Bourne when they were forced to play the last twenty minutes of the match with ten men as having made their three allowed subs Josh Spencer suffered an injury and was unable to continue. Given all this it is to their credit that they only conceded one more goal but it has to be said some of this was down to poor finishing from Loughborough The final goal coming in the 82nd minute when Fabamunsi grabbed his second of the game from close range. During the final ten minutes the rain returned and as we were stood on the open side of the ground we got piss wet through like a couple of doughnuts.

At the final whistle we trudged back to the car piss wet through, disappointed at hearing of a 1st league defeat of the season for the Imps  but glad that we had ticked off yet another new ground. It was a shame for Nathan Arnold that the result didn’t go his way but looking at their form in the league there is plenty to build on going forward. Good luck to Loughborough in the next round, they were a pleasure to watch and they look like they have decent set up and well drilled team.

Given the conditions i must also give credit to both sets of players for the way they conducted themselves and the referee Amiee Kier who commanded the respect of both sets of players and looked to let play flow whenever she could.




Sherwood Colliery 2-2 Buxton

September to me has always seemed to be the worse month of the year by far. I think it started back when I was at school as it signifies the...