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The Big Freeze – February 2012

It had been the mildest winter for many a long year and there was just the suspicion that we might be going to get away with it this year ………………but NO! The month started off cold and on Wednesday 1st February, I went with my son, Liam and nephew Conor and it was the coldest night of the year and Conor was wearing next to nothing! Is it a statement of macho intent, or is it just forgetfulness? Needless to say, I was battened up against the weather with hat (second world war pilot’s helmet!!!!), scarf, heavy coat and gloves! Liam took pity on Conor and bought him a woolly hat We were glad to get inside the ground where it was a little warmer (but not much!). Conor had treated himself to a large selection of sweets from the club shop. I bought a programme, a very expensive programme I thought, at £3.00! Liam had a Balti pie (what else? Do bears shit in the woods?). The game itself was hardly a work of art. Too many of The Championship games are just wars of attrition. This one started well with a David Nugent goal in the seventh minute when he leapt like a salmon (yes…David Nugent!) to head home a cross into the unguarded net. Ten minutes later and Middlesborough were level and it was another hour before Middlesborough turned their superiority into a further goal when Tony McMahon screamed a free kick into the top  corner in the 79th minute. We all thought that was that, done and dusted. However, the best player on the field by a country mile and the only player with real class, Jermaine Beckford, went the extra mile and collected a poor clearance and from the tightest of angles, having rounded the keeper, squeezed the ball into the net for the equaliser and a draw was probably the fair result!

npower Championship Wednesday 1st February 2012

Leicester City 2                          Middlesborough 2

David Nugent 7                         Scott McDonald 17

Jermaine Beckford 86             Tony McMahon 79

Attendance:- 20,512                referee:- Gavin Ward

As a rule, I wouldn’t go to many league or premiership matches, except when the weather is bad and there is nowhere else to go to and the beginning of February proved to be just such a period. I had thought about going to  see Newtown on Saturday – never been and they are in danger of relegation from the top tier of Welsh soccer -however, the weather forecast was for snow later in the day and so I played safe and chose a premiership match at Norwich City. It was the right choice! I later  found out that Newtown’s game had been called off! I caught the 11.41 Norwich train from Petterborough which called in at Ely (where the driver changes ends and the train emerges from the station the same way it  went in!) and Thetford and rolled into Norwich at 13.14. Over the road from the station, “The Compleat Angler” was doing a roaring pre-match trade with West Ham rather fortunately getting the better of Millwall on Sky TV. There were lots of optimistic BoltonWanderers fans in the bar too,  and I must admit that after a recent mini revival, I  felt that the Wanderers were in with a real chance of pulling points from this game. I had a chicken & ham pie, chips and peas all washed down with a couple of pints of local ale and then braved the biting cold for the fifteen minute walk to the stadium. When I rang this morning, I was told that the game was sold out, except for away fans who could get in by paying a king’s ransom (£35.00) in cash at the gate. I’d bought a programme en-route and for the first time, I found a league programme being priced at MORE than £3.00. This one was £3.50. The Premiership  is a rip off! When I got to  the away entrance, I was told that I would need a ticket to get in and that I would have to  go to the ticket office to buy one! Why did I bother ringing up this morning? If I had known that, I would have got there earlier than 2.15pm. When I got to the ticket office, the queue was a couple of hundred yards long and my heart sank! To be fair, the ticket office staff were pretty efficient and by 2.45pm I had my ticket – knocked down to  £25.00 for old age gonna die soon pensioner and went round to squeeze into the small corner of the ground allotted to the away fans. As for the match, The Wanderers played well……in patches, but they were never going to be a match for a very solid Norwich City side who won comfortably despite losing both centre halfs to injury in the first half hour or so. The Norwich stewards had eyes only for the Wanderers contingent, whilst behind them the home supporters were trying everything to goad the away fans into an ejection indiscretion! I trod dejectedly away from the ground and boarded the 17.54 back to Peterborough. There had been no snow in Norwich, but the promised precipitation carpeted the Peterborough platform in white and busy railway officials were sweeping pathways through the snow! It took me ten minutes to clear my car of snow and the journey home was  “interesting”. I slid into the central roundabout at one junction, but fortunately, there were no other cars around and on a hill near home, the car ground to a halt and I needed to clear snow from the road to provide initial grip to get moving again! I snook into the house and hunkered down to watch an episode of Stephen Fry’s “Kingdom” on DVD before “Match of the Day”.

Barclays Premier League – Saturday 4th February 2012

Norwich City  2             Bolton Wanderers   0

                                        Andrew Surman 70

                                       Anthony Pilkington 85

                                     Attendance:- 26,358           referee:- Mr L Probert

There wasn’t much chance of any football on Monday evening, both the Conference matches were off. Liverpool were playing Tottenham. Harry Redknap, the Tottenham manager, who had been defending himself in court against a fraud charge brought by HMRC (Her Majesties Revenue and Customs) missed the match when his flight from London to Liverpool was cancelled – due, I think, to the weather! He didn’t miss much, however as neither side could score! And so to Tuesday when a gathering had been arranged for the FA Cup (with Budwieser – of course) 4th Round Replay at Sheffield Wednesday. I had sat-nav postcodes to pick up Graeme near Leicester and Richard even further up the M1 before depositing us outside Nottingham where we transferred to Chris’ car for the drive up to Hillsborough on a freezing evening. When we got there we met up with Pete who was on a holiday hop from Japan where the J-League matches are usually played in sweltering conditions! He’d come up by train from London and had quietly and gently  turned into a block of ice, so that when we met him, he had already raided the Owls shop for gloves and a warm hat to keep the worst of the cold at bay! We managed to obtain excellent seats well up on the half way line and we were anticipating quite a clash after League 1 Sheffield Wednesday had held Championship Blackpool 1-1 at Bloomfield Road ten days earlier. It was not to be. Blackpool came out of the starting blocks like thoroughbreds and were two goals up inside the first fifteen minutes, the first a pretty inept attempt by the goalkeeper to save what looked to be an innocuous effort, the second was a delicious curling chip from outside the penalty area by the sumptuously named Lomana Tresor LuaLua. Ten minutes after half time the impressive Ludovic Sylvestre rounded the scoring off, lobbing the goalkeeper from the edge of the area. The small crowd – the lowest I’ve ever been in at Hillsborough -were streaming away well before the end! Then it was the reverse journey by car in temperatures that dropped to -7C and the following day, I found that my car had been bashed while it was parked up outside Nottingham. It goes in for repair next Tuesday!

FA Cup (with Budweiser) 4th Round Replay

Sheffield Wednesday 0               Blackpool   3

                                                                                                          Matt Phillips 7

                                                                                                         Lomana Tresor LuaLua 14

                                                                                                         Ludovic Sylvestre 54

                                         Attendance :- 10,274                        Referee:- Andy D’Urso

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