Friday 10 September 2021
Monday 30 August 2021
Monday 23 August 2021
Thursday 19 August 2021
Wednesday 11 August 2021
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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