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Nicole at Whyteleafe and other tales – end of February 2012

I was pretty glad I didn’t go to a Monday evening fixture, because I didn’t really feel up to it and by Tuesday I felt much better and definitely looking forward to the fixture at Thrapston! It is a funny old ground, Chancery Lane, it shares the site with the cricket club and so only has three sides for spectators. However, in the last few years, they have built new dressing rooms and at last they have achieved Premier Division status in the United Counties League. This season, mind you, they have a battle on their hands to maintain that position! They were playing league leaders, Kings Lynn, who are real heavyweights in this league. Last season was their first ever in the United Counties League after demotion from The Blue Square Bet North in 2009 over ground grading issues and their subsequent liquidation. The phoenix from the ashes has added “Town” to the soubriquet to distance itself from the previous incarnation. Last season, they expected to walk the division and get back into the Southern League at the first attempt. They reckoned without St Neots Town who had a new ground and big plans for promotion themselves. This time, although they sit at the top of the league, unfancied Long Buckby who possess (in my opinion) quite the worst ground in the top division, lie some six points behind them in second place, but with three games in hand and, crucially, they are undefeated in the league this season. I got to the ground deliberately early because Kings Lynn Town are known to bring a large following to their away games, but I was surprised to find, an hour before kick-off that I was the first spectator inside the ground! I enjoyed a couple of very reasonably priced pints (£2.10) in the club house and as the teams came out I repaired to the covered standing area at pitch side where I bumped into Ian and Graeme who are serial UCL game watchers. Indeed, Ian played UCL football for Desborough Town and was a member of the 1966/67 Championship side. He is now a well known local sport commentator, speaker and writer as well as being a former colleague of mine in Education! The chatter was about Long Buckby’s floodlights which appear to be in need of serious resuscitation – at least three matches have been called off because of floodlight failure. Perhaps Kings Lynn  Town won’t need to win the title if Long Buckby win instead but can’t guarantee their floodlights …..even IF they wanted to gain promotion! In any case, that wasn’t an issue at this match as two early goals – the first one nothing short of comical – put Kings Lynn Town 2-0 up in eleven minutes. They were the better side throughout but Thrapston Town gave a good account of themselves and persisted to the bitter end so that it was on the hour mark that Kings Lynn eventually increased their lead and a final goal six minutes from time sealed an emphatic victory!

Chromasport & Trophies United Counties League Premier Division

Tuesday 21st February 2012

Thrapston Town    0               Kings Lynn Town      4

attendance: 162                              Jamie Thurlbourne  1, 11

referee:- Wayne Chalmers          Danny Beaumont 60  Jason Turner 84

The following evening, I was spoilt for choice! Bourne Town were at home to Holbeach United in the quarter finals of The Lincolnshire Senior Cup. Bourne is one of my favourite grounds because of the picturesque nature of its setting. However it is open on one side and part of a much larger park which also encompasses the cricket field and at the end of last season, they were relegated to the First Division of the UCL because the FA deemed that their ground did not fulfil the requirements for step 5 and that was a real shame! However, also playing on Tuesday evening were Daventry United who were entertaining Desborough Town. There was another big pull here, because I have a real soft spot for Desborough Town and always try to get to  their night matches whenever possible! Added to which, Desborough are a sorry sight this season, propping up the Premier Division where the club has played its football since it was founded in 1896 (are they the only club to have played their entire existence in the same division of the same league?). Chris, from Nottingham, had intimated that he might be going to Bourne for a first visit, so my choice of match was in the balance right up to the minute I left the house and plumped for……….Daventry United! Little did I know at that stage  what a salient choice I had made! Chris decided to have  a night in and so didn’t travel down from Nottingham to Bourne which was a good thing for him because just six minutes into the game with Holbeach United with the score at 0-0……… the floodlights failed! This was the second time the floodlights had failed for this encounter, the first time on 31st January, the score was again 0-0 when the lights failed on 36 minutes. However, all unbeknown, I travelled over to Daventry and arrived in plenty of time to sample the fare on offer. They have a variety of bar snacks all beautifully cooked and presented and very reasonably priced and tonight I viewed Manchester City on Sky to the accompaniment of chicken and mushroom pie, salad and chips with a pot of gravy on the side and a fine pint of ale to wash it all down! and all for the princely sum of £6.95 I met John, who is the public face of Desborough Town (and secretary) outside the clubhouse and he was really hoping for some sort of result because he passionately believes that Desborough Town can pull themselves of of their predicament. However, I sat with Duncan, whose son Eddie plays for Desborough Town (and an older son plays for S&L Corby) and who is a former colleague in Education. Eddie doesn’t have the silky skills of his older brother, but he is a very effective right sided midfielder. Anyway, to  the match! Daventry looked on course for a routine victory when they opened up  a two goal lead, Desborough Town’s goalkeeper went off injured after an innocuous clearance and Desborough also had Ben Williams sent off for the challenge that resulted in a penalty for Daventry’s second goal. The old warhorse, Kevin Byrne had other ideas and he reduced the deficit before half-time and led a battling display from ten man Desborough to land a second goal five minutes into the second half and his team to a very deserved draw! It was a rip roaring encounter!

Chromasport & Trophies United Counties League Premier Division

Wednesday 22nd February 2012

Daventry Town        2                Desborough Town    2

J. Gould 30                                       Kevin Byrne 40, 50

T. Lorraine 39 (pen)

attendance:- 54                               referee:- P. Hodgson

I don’t always, go to a match on Thursday evenings, but I quite fancied the npower Championship clash between Derby County and Leicester City at Pride Park so I rang in the morning and booked an old man gonna die soon ticket which was £17.50 on the website, but somehow found an extra two pounds administration fee over the telephone! Hmmmm! I thought I’d better leave in good time, so I  was on the road by 5.30pm and there my troubles started! There were hold-ups on The A14, and twice on the M1 whilst the A52 on the approach to Derby resembled a neatly laid out car park! To say that I was underwhelmed by the time I had parked my car (at least I avoided parking fees!) and walked across the bridge and joined the queue to collect my ticket, would be an understatement, The queue was half an hour long and my mood was not helped when I reached the counter and they couldn’t find my ticket. I was fuming, pawing the ground like a demented stallion and demanding to see the manager! No such luck! Would I please like to join the main ticket queue and explain my situation to them. With muttered curses and a burning desire to see Derby County thrashed, I joined another half hour queue and eventually was handed a ticket which got me into the ground pretty high up on the half-way line just as the match commenced! God was on my side and Derby County received the thrashing they deserved….well, maybe it was only 1-0, but Leicester were far and away the better side and the massed ranks of their supporters away to my right, were pretty emphatic in their determination to let the home fans know just who the top dogs were! I shan’t be returning to Pride Park in a hurry!

npower Championship Thursday 23rd February 2012

Derby County     0                Leicester City     1

referee: S Hooper                  Neil Danns 16

attendance:- 28,201

On Saturday, I went a visit to Whyteleafe in Surrey which would be another new ground for me. Why Whyteleafe? Well, in the 90s when my school went Grant Maintained and joined the National  Association of Grant Maintained Schools, I occasionally met up with (amongst others) the head teacher of Whyteleafe Grant Maintained School and the subject of football also cropped up and I had ever promised myself that ONE DAY, I would go and see them play football! I took the 10.56 to St Pancras and the 12.43 Caterham train from Victoria which, some fourteen stops and 45 minutes later trundled into Whyteleafe South Station at 13.31. I had plenty of time, so I walked back into Whyteleafe itself and treated myself to a Chicken Dupiazza at the local Royal  Tandoori  and washed it down with a very acceptable bottle of Spanish Red, all the while reading from “Before The Poison” by Peter Robinson. It was only when I reached Whyteleafe’s neat and compact ground on Church Road, that I realised that I had left my book behind in the Royal Tandoori! Whyteleafe are having a pretty abysmal season and lie at the very bottom of The Ryman Isthmian League Division 1 South, some ten points adrift of their nearest rivals! Thus there was another reason to see them –  before they slipped into Combined Counties obscurity! However, Christine, who does a lot behind the scenes for the club and who was putting up the teams before the game, was very upbeat. “We’ve never been relegated” she claimed and insisted that there was still time to turn things round! Their opponents, Corinthian Casuals were a mid-table team with nothing left to play for this season but pride (and, of course, the honour of being the toffs team who always played the game in the right spirit………..)! Anyway, I was expecting nothing more than yet one more defeat for the home side whose last league victory had been in September (10th) 2011 and who had endured seventeen defeats and six draws in league games since then! Sitting all by herself in the stand behind the goal was a young lady who kept her eyes intently on the game. Nicole, she said her name was, from Alberta, Canada and her boyfriend, Scott, was playing at number 4 for The Casuals. They had met, she said in Las Vegas when they were both on holiday there and she was over for a visit and naturally, Whyteleafe was just the place to come and watch him play football! Oh the joys of young love! As for the game, Whyteleafe broke their long losing streak with a thumping and deserved 3-0 victory. Scott played well for Casuals, but it was the home side’s day and it was easy to believe that they will not be relegated on this form, whatever the league table says! I went back to  The Royal Tandoori to collect my book after the game, but all was shuttered and barred and the 17.29 to Victoria was beckoning, but it had been a good day!

 

Ryman Isthmian League Division 1 South Saturday 25th February 2012

Whyteleafe      3               Corinthian Casuals       0

Fred Fleming 5                  attendance:- 92

Elliott Mitchell 58             referee:- Neil Wallace

Ryan Wilson 87

 

The last Monday in February saw me following the inane advice of sat-nav and taking the non-motorway route to deepest and darkest Derbyshire – Uppingham, Oakham, Melton Mowbray, right across Nottingham  and eventually crossing over junction 26 of the M1 to drift down into Ilkeston. They used to be called Ilkeston Town before they over reached themselves and fell by the wayside and Ilkeston is the phoenix from the ashes, plying their trade in The Evo-Stik Northern Premier League Division 1 South. This evening they had a local derby match against Leek Town, who had brought along a raucous array of support who spent much time when not singing before the game in the club house, trying to knock nine bells out of an automated fairground punchbag! Each to his own, I suppose! Ilkeston have serious hopes of a play-off place and promotion to the premier division. Leek Town are mid-table and will find a play off spot much more difficult to achieve. However, far from being overawed by their neighbours, Leek Town snatched a two goal lead within the first half hour and then the bizarre occurrence of the injured linesman occurred! During a break in play to substitute a Leek player, the nearside linesman signalled the umpire and much discussion took place…..but then play resumed. What was all that about we wondered? The chap  from Birmingham, an Aston Villa season ticket holder who had endured Villa’s 0-0 draw at Wigan Athletic on Saturday and stayed over in Leeds to catch Wigan’s 46-4 demolition of Castleford in The Stobart Rugby Super League on Sunday and decided to round off his weekend with a visit to Ilkeston on the Monday (well, he was, he said temporarily out of work!) was as confused as I was over this seeming unnecessary stoppage! Five minutes later, the linesman signalled again and this time the tannoy requested that any qualified referee in the crowd make himself (or herself) known to the referee. Obviously the linesman was injured and couldn’t continue! One of the Leek Town substitutes put his name forward as a qualified referee and this was not taken entirely positively by the Ilkeston Management! There was nobody else (I wasn’t going to admit to being qualified!) and eventually after a good ten minutes wrangling, the young player was sent to patrol the distant touchline and play recommenced, Ilkeston pulled a goal back and went into the half time interval only one goal behind. On the hour mark, Ilkeston equalised and it looked as if the momentum was with them, but four minutes later Leek regained the lead with a spectacular breakaway goal. There was yet more drama! Three minutes from time, Ilkeston equalised yet again and a pulsating game seemed to be heading for a draw only for Leek to snatch the result in the final minute! On the way home, I decided to ignore sat-nav and hurtled down the M1 to Leicester and back  home via the A46 and A47. It was only my third visit to Ilkeston and it had been a very entertaining evening!

Evo-Stik Northern Premier League Division 1 South

Monday 27th February 2012

Ilkeston     3                             Leek Town        4

Jack Watts 43                           Tim Grice 8, 90

Sam Duncum 60                       Dan Cope 26  Glyn Mellor 64

Ryan Wilson 87                       attendance:- 457    referee:- John Mayhew (Dudley)

On Tuesday evening, I drove across the fens to Wisbech. I’ve probably seen them four or five times since my first visit to Fenland Park in February, 1999. However, they have managed to play at three separate grounds over that period and Fenland Park is apparently still standing, but covered with weeds and not an unbroken window on the site! Two years ago I saw this self same fixture at their temporary home of “The Nest”  at  Outwell on a filthy evening of rain and floods, but now they are in the second season of their new home – “The Elgoods Fenland Arena” which is situated on Lynn Road some four or five miles outside the town. It is a drab featureless stadium with a small seating area for around 100 spectators but otherwise a flat standing area, covered behind each goal and office and club house accommodation opposite the covered seating area. Wisbech ply their trade in The Ridgeons Eastern League at Step 5 whilst their opponents, Soham Town Rangers compete in The Rymans Isthmian League Division 1 North at Step 4. Two years ago on a miserable evening, Wisbech triumphed by 3-2 and 92 hardy souls braved the elements to enjoy the spectacle! This evening, with Soham struggling in their league and Wisbech successful in theirs (so successful in fact, that they are harbouring visions of possible promotion and if they were promoted – a big if – last night’s teams could be visiting The Elgoods Fenland Arena!). There was a much larger crowd this time, on a balmy evening but the result was reversed and Soham ran out solid if unspectacular victors by 2-0. It was good to see that Wisbech had produced a programme. How many times do we see clubs making petty excuses for being unable to provide programmes in county and other minor cup matches? It was even more impressive that they were offering the programmes – admittedly a heavy gsm A4 folded sheet – free of charge. That was a nice gesture!

Cambridgeshire Invitation Cup Semi-Final

Tuesday 28th February 2012 7.45pm

Wisbech Town       0                  Soham Town Rangers       2

referee:- Alistair Rayner              Dubi Ogbonna 16

attendance:- 218                            Scott Carter 76

February 29th only comes round once every four years and they say that every woman has the right to propose to her man on that date! Sure enough, during the spate of internationals played that evening, one young woman at Cardiff during the interval in Gary Speed’s Testimonial match against Costa Rica, proposed to her fellah and, luckily enough for her – and the twenty three thousand odd spectators – he had the good sense to accept! Not that I was watching international football tonight, I don’t have much time for the over glorified, over hyped, over paid show-ponies who strut the international stage, I was down at the “local” where Corby Town entertained Long Buckby. It was an oft postponed Northants Senior (Hillier) Cup Semi-final which should have been played at Long Buckby. However, They have had floodlight problems for some time and the match was re-scheduled for Corby Town’s Steel Park. Long Buckby have been going well this season in The United Counties League, where they remained unbeaten until only last Saturday when lowly Yaxley visited Station Road and unexpectedly gained a 1-0 victory! I have many times opined that Long Buckby is one of my least favourite grounds, not least because the few facilities are Spartan and the bar is situated a fair way from the ground itself. Having said all  that, however, I have to admit that I haven’t actually been there for seven years (Corby Town won 5-1 there on 9th November 2005 at the quarter final stage of the same competition) and things may have improved! Anyway, I gather that Long Buckby have ambitions just like St Neots Town last season, to gain promotion to The Evo-Stik Southern League and, at the same time cruelly dent Kings Lynn Town’s hopes of a quick exit up the leagues for a second year running! Coming to play Corby Town after their first league defeat of the season was a double edged sword. Corby Town have an appalling home record and any away team must have a chance at Steel Park, so what better opportunity to get the season back on track! However, a second defeat in a row might seriously disrupt what has so far been a fine season for Buckby and might send them into a downward spiral  from which recovery might be difficult! As for Corby Town, fresh from a morale boosting 3-0 thrashing of Hinckley United at the weekend (away from home, of course!), this was probably their last chance of a piece of silverware this season, but they had Phil Gulliver absent through injury and there were strong rumours floating about that experienced campaigners like captain for the night, Chris MacKenzie, left back Paul Mayo, who has been in outstanding form this season and versatile Andy Hall, all might leave the club after the players were asked to take a 25% wage cut by the new chairman. Indeed, there were fears that when Corby Town travel to Nuneaton Town for Saturday’s Blue Square Bet North fixture, Chris MacKenzie might be in goal…………for the opposition! For tonight, however, Corby Town collected a fairly routine victory over their lower league rivals by 3-1. Long Buckby were plucky and determined, but brittle at the back and Jordan Smith had his hat trick before Danny Quigley grabbed a consolation goal in added time at the very end!

Northants Senior (Hillier) Cup Semi-final

Wednesday 29th February 2012

Corby Town         3                     Long Buckby       1

Jordan Smith 20,33,73               Dan Quigley 90

attendance:- 174                           referee:- Ian Rathbone (Northampton)

There were no programmes available! What is it with football clubs who are playing in County Cup matches? Feeble excuses and a lack of will, Corby Town should be ashamed of themselves!

That was it for the end of February, except to mention that Desborough Town officially opened their new club house last Friday evening (24th February) and there was a good turn out and a special mention and honours for club secretary John, who has served the club as player and official for the best part of fifty years. It is three years or so since Desborough Town had their previous club house burnt down and times since have been hard with even their very existence threatened! However, they can look forward with renewed  hope and a new club house, and maybe, just maybe, maintain their position in the Premier Division of The United Counties League for one more season! Who knows what the FA Leagues Committee might then decide?

 

 

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