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Mid-February 2012

I’ve not been 100% fit this year. I’ve had a nagging cold that flares up just when you think you have got on top of it. Back comes the catarrh, sore throat, headache and cough and then just as suddenly it all dies away….well, nearly away, it is aways lurking in the background! Such was the case on Tuesday 14th February when I struggled over to St Neots in C’s Peugeot 107 (my car was in for repair after an altercation with an unknown vehicle in Nottinghamshire last week!). I do like St Neots compact little ground where the East Coast Mainline trains roar past unseen every five minutes and where there is terracing behind both goals and a lovely small, but perfectly adequate stand. Maybe Corby Town should have come to see it before they built Steel Park! It was a tin-pot match. The Quarter Final of The Hinchingbrooke Cup, which is played for mainly by non-league clubs in The Huntingdonshire area. Tonight’s visitors were Royston Town from the Premier Division of The Molten Spartan South Midlands League and technically a division lower than their Southern League Central Division opponents. I got there in plenty of time to have a pint before the game and the bar had been moved since my last visit in August 2011 into a much larger room with large screen Sky TV available. Needless to say, there were no programmes and nobody seemed prepared to print off any team sheets so a lot of guess work was involved in trying to work out who was playing! It began to rain in earnest and I was grateful to gain the comfort of the stand as the game kicked off, unusually these days at 7.30pm. St Neots were far too clever for their lower league opponents and ran out easy winners by 8-2, but ten goals was a feast for the evening and the rain had stopped so I drove considerably more sedately on my way home than I had on the outward journey! I’m not sure I like the stadium being named “The Hunts Post Community Stadium”. The original stadium, now under housing, was called Rowley Park and I suppose that once you have stripped away the sponsorship, the new Stadium should be “New Rowley Park”. Even non-League clubs these days are after every penny they can squeeze out of sponsorship and, although sad, that is a fact of financial life for many clubs!

Hinchingbrooke Cup Quarter Final Tuesday 14th February 2012

                                                St Neots Town 8                     Royston Town 2

                                              Kamara 18, Kanudu 27               K Fehmi (pen) 60

                                             Mwanyongo 29, Tolley 52           Bond 69

                                             Mackey 73, Moore 75,

                                             Green 81, Steer 85                          Attendance:- 162

The following evening, Wednesday 15th February 2012, I made the short trip to see Corby Town of The Blue Square Bet North. It wasn’t a good night on the “cold” front. My nose was streaming again and despite the mild conditions, I  was shivering like a man in palsy! I collected middle son Mike from Kettering and we enjoyed a pint before the game which eventually played out to Corby Town’s lowest crowd of the season! Corby Town were abysmal and the least said about the game the better. Recently stripped of some quite useful talent in Matt Rhead (who was allowed to go on a free to Mansfield Town) and Gordon Spruce, and one or two other fringe players, Corby looked like a struggling UCL outfit rather than a team in  the top half of The Blue Square Bet North! The atmosphere was nil. In the first half, I sat with John in the main stand and it felt funereal, so in the second half we went to stand behind the goal which Corby were attacking, but even there, the atmosphere only marginally improved. If Corby Town don’t improve, they’ll be playing to an empty house by the end of the season! It didn’t help either that Hinckley United were relegation fodder before this fixture!

Blue Square Bet North Wednesday 15th February 2012

                                                             Corby Town 0           Hinckley United 2

                                                            Attendance:- 287       Richard Lavery 55, Craig Farrell 61

Thursday, I was awful, and virtually stayed in bed all day nursing a strong attack of the latent cold which had returned with a violence. It felt like slapping off the unwanted attentions of a lovelorn swain and by Friday, I thought I had sent it packing…….and so I decided to take in an interesting Evo-Stik Northern Premier League Division 1 South match at Stamford.  I quite like Stamford – apart from their silly habit of awarding idiotic names to their ground, like “The Newflame Stadium” and the current offering of “The Premier Kitchens Arena” – it backs onto the Peterborough-Leicester railway line and a good punt can easily land in the station car park! They were playing Sheffield who lay claim to being the oldest football club in the world and I visited their ground in 2007 when they were celebrating their 150th anniversary. They are doing well this season in fourth place (and a play-off for promotion spot) whilst the home team lay just one point behind them in fifth place. A pint and a Cornish pasty before the game fortified me for the forthcoming duel (but I decided additionally and, perhaps, with hindsight, with poor judgement,  on a chip butty to take out into the stand) and early in the game it was Sheffield who made all the running and they took a 19th minute lead. In the past, I have always been entertained at Stamford by a family – florid and roseate father mother and teenage daughter – who always seem to attend Stamford home matches and are vociferous in their support for The Daniels. In fact mum’s stentorian bellow could strip the paint from a battleship’s prow! This evening, there was no sign of them. I do hope that it was a temporary absence because their presence certainly adds to the enjoyment factor of matches at Wothorpe Road (if I am still allowed to call it that!). Just before half time, Stamford equalised and the contest that had been gently ebbing away suddenly came to life. Two further second half goals gave the home team a commanding position at 3-1 but storming back came Sheffield with two late goals, the second vehemently contested by the Stamford players who felt that the corner from which it was scored, should never have been awarded! The referee was a comely young lady called Sian Massey who has officiated on the line in Football League matches. She is an excellent referee and takes no nonsense from players who frequently tower over her and, indeed on this occasion eventually ran out of patience with the still protesting Stamford striker and booked him. Well deserved, we all thought. However, at 3-3 with the equaliser scored in 90+1 minutes, it seemed that Sheffield would return home with their league position intact until on 90+2 minutes Daniel Brooks stepped up to smash home from a corner and a pulsating match eventually went to the hosts by 4-3. It had been a cracker!

Evo-Stik Northern Premier League Division 1 South Friday 17th February 2012

Stamford    4                       Sheffield   3

                                                Kieren Watson 42            Steve Woolley 19

                                                Joe Pheasant 55               Dean Whiley (og) 82

                                                Bruno Holden 72              Matthew Varley 90+1

                                               Daniel Brooks 90+2          Attendance:- 244

The following day was FA Cup  5th Round day and I elected to go and see Bolton Wanderers  playing at Milwall. I suppose in terms of league teams, I have followed Bolton Wanderers since my youth. Indeed, my first ever match featured Bolton Wanderers in a 3rd Round FA Cup tie at Manchester United on 6th January 1962. Sadly, although the Wanderers scored first through Dennis Stevens – later to be the subject of a controversial transfer to Everton – Manchester United triumphed by 2-1. Since then, I have seen the Wanderers play in every division of The Football League and in other memorable cup ties. Today, however, it was a battle between a home team struggling at the foot of The npower Championship against the away team deep in relegation trouble in the Barclays Premiership. The previous night’s match hadn’t done wonders for my nagging cold and I took a healthy selection of tissues onto the 11.27 train to St Pancras. From there, I took the tube down to Victoria and the 13.11 to South Bermondsey arriving in plenty of time at 13.31.I enjoyed a very acceptable repast at a small cafe at the foot of the station steps (Spanish omelette, two slices of bread and butter and a large mug of tea) for £5.80 and then I had a ten minute walk to the ground  and as I walked, the rains came! I got my ticket, not with the Bolton Wanderers fans in the away end, but in the middle of the West Upper stand on the half-way line. There, I was surrounded by a very friendly group of Milwall season ticket holders……from whom I kept my real affiliation! The club were doing a special presentation to mark the fiftieth anniversary of their 1961/62 Division 4 Championship  campaign and many of the players from that team, several sporting walking sticks, were introduced to the crowd. It was only my second visit to The Den, and my first had come some thirty years earlier on Boxing Day in 1982 when the visitors, Leyton Orient had snatched a 1-0 away victory in the old Football League Division III in front of an attendance of 4,740. Today, the ground had been re-vamped, the crowd was much larger (though the regulars were groaning that it was too small and soon, as the oldsters died out, there would be no more support for Milwall, because all the children had moved out to trendy Essex!) and the team were playing in a higher division. They were no match for Bolton Wanderers, though and a goal in the fourth minute for the Wanderers killed the tie off as a contest. Unquestionably, Milwall huffed and puffed, but they rarely threatened a Wanderers defence – except perhaps when Gretar Steinsson contrived to edge the ball  over his own keeper, but thankfully just over the bar too! – and midway through the second half, David Ngog sealed the victory with a long range effort. I said good bye to my new-found friends, received texts from family and friends hoping that I  would get out of The Den alive, and in the still not inconsiderable precipitation, I made my way with the crowds back to  the station. By now, my nose was dripping like the Amazon in flood and I was shivering like an Autumn leaf. On the journey home I had my Kindle and read from “Run, Run, Run” by Mark Capell, a book which I had bought for 99p on Kindle, but beware of cheap books, they’re not always worth reading! It passed the time until the train decanted me wearily back onto my home platform! It had been an interesting week!!!!!!!!!

FA Cup (with Budweiser) 5th Round

                                              Milwall      0                    Bolton Wanderers     2

                                             Attendance:- 11,134      Ryo Miyiachi 4, David Ngog 59

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