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Of Cabbages and Kings

The time has come, the Walrus said,

      To talk of many things:

Of shoes — and ships — and sealing-wax —

      Of cabbages — and kings —

And why the sea is boiling hot —

      And whether pigs have wings.’

 From ‘The Walrus and The Carpenter’ by Lewis Carroll (1832-1898)




Monday 28th April 2014 Bedfordshire County League k.o.:- 6.15pm
Premier Division

Sharnbrook                                                                   4
Shaun Barnett 46, 60,
Matt Atherton 58,
Jim Burnside 90+2,
Marston Shelton Rovers                                         2
Joe Sames 62,
James Burroway 75,
Referee:- A. Hussey                                                Attendance:- 27


This was third choice on the list of matches for this evening. However, both Swannick PR of The Central Midlands League and Coventry United of The Midland Combination had their games called off because the opposition in each case couldn’t raise a team!

At this time of the year, all the step 4 and above leagues have completed their campaigns and only the play-offs are left. Even step five leagues like The Midland Football Association or The United Counties League have also completed all their fixtures and it is left to the minnows at step seven and below to provide mostly early evening entertainment at the end of April and into May.


The last time I had been to Sharnbrook had been on a blazing hot Summer’s day maybe ten or fifteen years ago, when two of my sons, Jim and Mike had been playing for the opposition in a Northants Cricket League match. Not a lot had changed! There have been improvements to the children’s play area (see below) with the addition of a climbing wall and spider’s web, but the cricket square was still securely fenced off and the picnic tables had aged beautifully!


Sharnbrook are in serious trouble at the foot of the table and, in addition, have had three points deducted for rule infringement. For Marston Shelton Rovers, their opponents this evening, this was their last match of the season and it would seem that they had some difficulty in gathering a team together for the fixture. They were, however, comfortably ensconced in mid table.


The match had hardly begun when I bumped into Lee, who had travelled over from Warwickshire for the fixture after he, too, had discovered that Swannick PR was off. He was just back from Serbia and had some hair-raising tales to tell of The Belgrade ‘derby’.

Sharnbrook started off looking like the cannon-fodder they have obviously provided for other teams all season. Gradually as the half progressed, they began to gain the upper hand, although by half-time, the game remained scoreless.

Immediately after half-time – indeed, within thirty seconds of the restart – the hosts took the lead and with it grew in confidence. They scored a further two goals before the hour mark and looked set for an unlikely, comfortable victory. The visitors had other ideas and came back strongly to leave the match finely balanced at 3-2 to the home side with fifteen minutes to play. The second Rovers goal was scored by a player who really ought to have been sent off after his disgraceful assault on a home player following a foul on himself! In fact he stayed on the pitch, with a yellow card against his name, and scored his side’s second goal from the free-kick awarded for the foul on himself!

For a while, it looked likely that Rovers must eventually draw level, but in the last five minutes, they left the back door open and two minutes into added time, Sharnbrook sealed a victory which took them, at least for the time being, out of the relegation places!


Tuesday 29th April 2014  Barclays U-18 Premier League  k.o.:- 2.00pm

Manchester United                                                               3

Marcus Rashford 2,

Cameron Borthwick-Jackson 35,

Charlie Scott 90,

Stoke City                                                                               2

Peter Makrillos 56,

Tomi Adeloye 74,

Referee:- Mr S. Eagles                                          Attendance:- 113


Graeme was right, (he usually is),  it was a much easier journey up to Carrington in Cheshire than I had expected. Even the traffic was light and, an added bonus, the weather was reasonably sunny and warm. We arrived at Manchester United’s famous training establishment a good hour before kick-off. Team sheets were issued as soon as we entered the building and free tea, coffeee and biscuits were on offer in the upstairs lounge. The training facilities were pretty impressive. There must have been at least ten full sized football pitches and a full sized 4G pitch with a viewing balcony on one side of the building. On the other side were three indoor 4G five-a-side pitches also with a viewing baclony.


I was less impressed with the pitch where the match was to be played. It was merely one of the ten or so full sized pitches with four Meccano fifty-seat stands on wheels down one side and, opposite, a tall tower for cameras to film the match, probably for training purposes or for MUTV consumption. No doubt, the Meccano stands could be wheeled to any other pitch, if necessary. Overall, however, the facilities didn’t come close to comparison with the the facilities at, for instance, Yong Ajax and were certainly no better than those at Stoke City, which we visited at the end of last year.


Just before the match started, we watched the Stoke City goalkeeper performing some pretty athletic leaps to catch crosses into the area and he looked very good. Less than two minutes into the match, he failed to hold onto a cross into the area and the ball was adjudged to have crossed the line by the referee’s assistant. before being headed away by a defender. United score a second, ten minutes from half-time from the exuberantly named left back, Cameron Borthwick-Jackson and they were good value for their two goal interval lead.


Stoke City came back with venom in the second half. Peter Makrillos, their strongly built, impressive number 8 scored early on and with fifteen minutes to go, they drew level and looked good value for the draw. Indeed, were it not for the goalkeeper’s second minute error, they could have been in the lead! They threatened to take the lead on more than one occasion, squandering at least two excellent chances. Right at the death, they were undone by right-back Charlie Scott, who volleyed in at the near post following a corner, a goal which lead to raucous celebrations by the home players.


United took the win and the points, but I felt that a draw would have been a fairer result. After the match, I googled Toby Carvery pubs and we settled on one not five miles from our second match. Sadly, I overloaded my plate and ate not wisely but too well. But I did enjoy it! Graeme supped more sparingly, choosing a cheese roll with Yorkshire pudding and roast potatoes. Despite the next ground being but five miles away, the traffic and the traffic lights kept our pace to a crawl as we drove straight through the centre of Stockport but we arrived safely with a good hour to spare before kick-off. The weather had closed in and it had become very overcast with spots of rain in the air.


Tuesday 29th April 2014    Cheshire League    k.o.:- 6.45pm

Division 2

Poynton                                                                                1

Jake Wright 83,

Lostock Gralam                                                                  1

Peter Murphy 36,

Referee:- Oliver Nolan                                     Attendance:- 28


Poynton Sports Club is well appointed (hmmmm). It has a football pitch adjoining a cricket pitch and there are floodlit bowls and tennis courts. Indoors, there are facilities for table-tennis and pool as well as a large bar and dining area. However, it is all enclosed on a fairly tight footprint of land and there would appear to be little opportunity for further development. Certainly the football pitch which is railed and paved around the outside, would have no room for further expansion, being directly adjacent to the cricket pitch on one side and with a drive way and car parks on the other three sides.


The home side were out and at practice when we arrived, but there was no sign of the visitors. We were a tad concerned at the kick-off time of 6.45pm as the skies became even more overcast and splashes of rain began to fall. The visitors arrived and the rains abated however, although it remained gloomy and the referee added but a few seconds at the end of each half in added time. We received every help from the officials of both sides – and the referee – in compiling our team lists, before the teams emerged and the game started a small matter of five minutes late!


Poynton are champions elect of division 2 of The Cheshire League. Indeed an official of the league turned up with medals and trophies to present if they could beat their visitors this evening. The only team who could catch them were Sandbach Ramblers (who must have fallen on hard times of late, for I remember them playing Chorley in the lower reaches of The Northern Premier League ten or more years ago), they were some five points behind with two games to go. Tonight, Poynton would need a win to guarrantee the championship.


They were playing Lostock Gralam who were themselves comfortably placed in sixth position in the league and recent league cup finalists. The match resembled a Medieval Jousting tournament, with both teams putting their heads down and butting into the opposition with plenty of ‘thud and blunder’ but lacking substantially in finesse. The pitch didn’t help. It was hard, bare in patches and very bouncy as well as sloping from goal to goal and with distinct undulations from side to side. No quarter was asked and certainly none was given as this titanic struggle raged across the sward. The tackles flew in and the referee was frequently beseiged by irate players and coaches and it was a surprise that only three cautions were issued – all to the visitors. The referee stayed calm and unflurried to the end and certainly managed a very difficult match with a degree of aplomb. One oddity that we noticed in the second half, was the substitution of number 4 for the visitors, only for him to return to the ‘fray later …………. as a substitute!

Gralam drew first blood, playing up the slope in the first half to gain the advantage at the interval.  Despite increasingly frenzied attacks in the second half, it looked as though the hosts might succumb to only their second defeat of the season. The equaliser duly arrived (correctly predicted by Graeme, of course) with but seven minutes left on the clock. Poynton will need to play another day to claim the one point still needed for the championship. They still have two games remaining.

Wednesday 30th April 2014  Bedfordshire County League  k.o.:- 6.15pm

Premier Division

Lidlington United Sports                                       2

Dan Bullen 15

Darren Rowlett 78,

Ickwell & Old Warden                                           1

Danny Fox 80,

Referee:- Yemi Elegunde                           Attendance:-  11


Lidlington was a lot further away than I anticipated! I had to wait until after 4.00pm to collect my car which was receiving treatment after a recent altercation another muntjac! The village is only a couple of miles off the M1 at The A421 junction and I arrived with plenty of time to spare. I had a chat with a very friendly referee, Yemi Elegunde, who had travelled down from Staffordshire for the game (he lived a lot more locally, but he was working up there today). He ensured that we had all the team information we needed before the match commenced.


Then, I met the legend! Many of my umpiring colleagues are frequently wont to mention Keith Coburn, who comes from Cambridgeshire and is a keen cricket umpire, but also a keen follower of local football. This evening, I met him for the first time and we had a chat about our different approaches to following football. I don’t think he ever does ‘re-visits’ and he only counts the match (and the ground) if he was there for the start and remains for the duration!  There was a pretty thin attendance for this evenings match and of the eleven spectators, seven were ‘hoppers’ (or ‘travellers’, as Dave called them). There was one man and his dog, a couple of youths with a football and a solitary spectator who sat on a bench behind the goal and enjoyed his sandwiches. Otherwise, it was ‘hoppers’ who made up the sparse crowd.

Out of the seven ‘hoppers’, four had arrived by train. Lidlington, despite its small size, actually boasts a railway station on the Bletchley to Bedford line (the line which connects the London Midland from Euston with East Midland Trains from St Pancras). One train each hour, in each direction, stops at the station and the track runs right behind the goal at Lidlington’s Hurst Grove ground (see below).


The two teams playing tonight occupied the middle two positions in the fourteen team Premier Division of The Bedfordshire County League and were separated by a single point, although Ickwell & Old Warden would have been two pouts ahead of their rivals but for a penalty three point deduction.


The match was quite lively and it seemed, early on, that the visitors must score following a spate of excellent chances. The first goal, however, arrived for the hosts after a quarter of an hour when the goalkeeper appeared to punch the ball onto the back of the home striker and it bounced into the net. Our linesman told us that it was an own goal, but the league website has credited it to  the Lidlington striker, Dan Bullen.


The next goal didn’t arrive until deep into the second half, by which time, the home team had just about managed to wrest control of the match from their doughty opponents. At 2-0, the match seemed safely captured by the hosts. However, within two minutes, Ickwell had pulled a goal back, which set up a nervy last ten minutes for the home team, but they held out and consolidated seventh place in the table.


The train ‘hoppers’:- Richard, Martin, Dave and Mitch 


 The single carriage train drifts off into the evening on its way to Bletchley

Thursday 1st May 2014 MDH Northants Combination  k.o.:- 6.30pm

Division 2

Finedon Volta                                                  3

Kael Talbot 37, 71,

Martin Tamplin 44,

Corby Ravens                                                 2

Jason Crombie 78, 90+3

Referee:- Adam Norton                          Attendance:- 20


It didn’t help that the postcode supplied by the league, not only didn’t apply to Finedon Volta’s ground, it actually took me to Irthlingborough which is the next village along! It was only when I returned to Finedon and enquired of the Recreation Ground – the good old fashioned way of finding your way to a football match – that I was able to locate the match on a cold and drizzly evening.


Why ‘Volta”? It was a strange suffix for a football team. Below is a picture of The Finedon Volta which was erected in 1865 by William Mackworth-Dolben (1806-1872). His son, William Digby Mackworth-Dolben, drowned at sea whilst serving on HMS Volta at the mouth of The River Niger off the West Coast of Africa on 1st September 1863. The Volta monument, which was, essentially, a folly, about 100 feet high, was built by William Mackworth-Dolben to commemorate the death of his son.

In 1951, the house, and the monument were owned by Mr and Mrs Northen. On 16th November that year, the tower collapsed, killing Mrs Florence Northen who was inside it at the time. After the collapse, it was discovered that NO MORTAR had been used in the construction of the tower. Nothing remains of the tower and it is likely that very few people today in Finedon know of its previous existence. However, its name lives on with the football club. The cricket club are known as Finedon Dolben. ‘Dolben’ was the name that Willam Mackworth added to his own when he married Frances, daughter of Sir John English Dolben 4th Baronet. There are tenuous links between football and cricket in the town!


The football club suffered a disaster of its own in 1956 when, playing at The Mulso ground, a large crater appeared in the pitch during a match – probably ten metres across – the game was abandoned and future matches were played at their present home, The Recreation Ground. The crater was probably caused by abandoned iron workings, long forgotten!


Both Volta and Ravens were handily placed going into this match with the Corby side four points ahead, but having played three matches more. This was their final fixture, but realistically, despite their high placings, neither team will be promoted.

It was a good match, despite the fact that the pitch had been recently mown and the grass cuttings left where they fell. Corby Ravens pressed early on and missed a golden opportunity when the ball was scooped over the bar from almost under the bar. It was harder to miss, but miss they did, much to the chagrin of their manager who ‘would have put his mortgage on him scoring’! Volta then scored twice just before half-time  and added a third after seventy-one minutes and the game seemed in the bag for the home team!

At one point, early in the second half, Ravens had two men off injured, one with a nasty kick in the head which required bandaging. They roared back after Volta’s third goal and scored themselves on 78 minutes. A second goal deep into added time caused havoc in the home defence. There was still a further seven minutes still to play, but Ravens were unable to force an equaliser!

Matches this season:- 211   new grounds:  146

Matches this year:-  93       new grounds:- 60



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