Mysterious Ways

If you want to kiss the sky
Better learn how to kneel (on your knees boy!)

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GAME OF THE WEEK

Cleethorpes Town 2 Kidsgrove Athletic 1

The Evo-Stik South

Attendance: 184

Gate: £7

Programme: £1.50

This visit has been a long time coming, far too long. I ran into Cleethorpes Town on the NCEL Easter Groundhop over 2 years ago at Barton Town Old Boys (now Barton Town). On a fresh Good Friday morning, in the vicinity of the Humber Bridge, the Owls visited in numbers, entertained us on and off the pitch, stealing the show for the weekend. Later that same day we visited Grimsby Borough at Bradley Road. Same nest that the Owls call home.

Finally, I realised plans I made that day and was heading east on a sunny Saturday towards Cleethorpes, or actually, Grimsby. Kind of weird that, use Grimsby station for Cleethorpes Town and Cleethorpes station for Grimsby Town. Off into the seaside air, a short bus ride later I arrived at Bradley Road.

This is a council owned football centre, where Clee Town and Grimsby Borough play at home along with a number of other projects using the facility. Sorry to say but the ground does lack character, the main building on your left after entering houses a bar, toilets and changing rooms does what it needs to, but is very much what you would expect. Food’s decent though.

Unfortunately, there is very little to tel you about, at the far end is a small covered standing area and opposite the main building a larger covered seating area. If only the ground matched the people you meet, it would be a cracker.

Whilst both teams are through to the next round of the cup, their starts in the league have been quite different. Town have won both of their games, whilst Athletic have managed only 1 point from the possible 6. Given that information, any stranger would have thought the teams were in the wrong kits in the opening 45 minutes. An even start gave way to Grove looking the brighter and starting to create more. Town were limited to balls over the top and the odd run from Taylor.

Aside from a moment of madness from keeper Parton, Grove looked fairly comfortable at the back. France and Cocks looked dangerous, though the latter became public enemy number one for going down under a hefty first half challenge. Cropper and Malbon were starting to pull Bloomer and Donald around. It was therefore no surprise when the visitors took the lead. A move down their right side saw Malbon free in the channel, drawing the keeper he fed Cropper who’s outstretched foot poked the ball just inside the post, 1-0 to Kidsgrove.

Kidsgrove looked comfortable for the rest of the half and quarter of an hour into the second period, then the Owls management team had seen enough and three quick substitutes just after the hour mark changed things around, going 3 at the back and giving a bit more oomph up front started to make a difference.

Substitutes Oglesby and Dickens added purpose and a bit of zest, Davis looked a different player. Though Town still could not find a way through, when they did Parton was there for Grove. Until, the 75th minute that is, when an umpteenth corner for the hosts was swung in. Donald rose highest and his header was on target, it looked stoppable, however Parton could only get a hand on it and the ball bobbled over the line at the near post, if only somebody had been stood there. 1-1, game on.

The atmosphere around Bradley Road changed with the equaliser, and it was no surprise when Clee went ahead 3 minutes later. Cooper had had a chance moments before but took to long and the chance passed, he did the same thing here, but it worked out brilliantly for the Owls. His first attempt was blocked, but the ball sat very nicely for him, this time the substitute thumped the ball home from 12 yards giving the keeper no chance. In less than 20 minutes we had seen a complete transformation of the game. Credit to the Town management team.

Game over and I was back off home, another pleasant train journey and a nap so I would be ok for the Mayweather vs. McGregor fight.

ADDED ON

On Monday I was back at Brantingham Road, again with George Cheetham, he of Manchopper fame and Mark Riding, later on we were joined by the legend that is iBreezeblock. As much as I like these 3 gents, that was pretty much as good as the evening got.

The match was not good, both keepers pulled off a good save, Abbey Hey took the lead with a penalty, Road equalised with a belter from Poxon, though unfortunately this only brought us extra-time. Unfortunately, an injury to Hampshire shortly into the additional 30 minutes led to the game being abandoned.

The following night I was in Tameside to watch Stalybridge Celtic entertain Marine. Relegated last season, Celtic need to steady the ship, judging by this performance it could be a struggle. Second best pretty much all over the pitch and from start to finish, I think the only surprise was that Marine only won 2-0.

Confidence appeared to be draining away as the game went on, things do not look too good at Bower Fold and it looks like another Tameside team will make the drop from the National Leagues to the Evo-Stik North.

GAMES

Mon: Maine Road A Abbey Hey A

Tues: Stalybridge Celtic 0 Marine 2

Sat: Cleethorpes Town 2 Kidsgrove Athletic 1

FACTS

Games: 408

Goals:  1385

Grounds: 197

Games since a 0-0: 21

SOUNDTRACK

Achtung Baby – U2

See It Through

“Its gettin’ better,
One day its gonna happen and we’ll see it through …”

GAME OF THE WEEK

Sheffield FC 0 Ossett Town 2

The Emirates FA Cup Preliminary Round

Attendance: 229

Gate: £8

Programme: £2

After visiting the oldest ground in the world in the oldest competition in the world, I decided to go for the oldest club in the next round, so on a quite autumnal afternoon in the middle of August I was in Dronfield, south of Sheffield.

I had a lift to this cup-tie, surprisingly a well known internet search engine’s map routing system took us along the A6 before pulling off to go through Stoney Middleton and close to the wonderfully named Unthank.

Paying the £1 car park fee, we parked, made our way to the entrance and entered ‘The Home of Football’ or the Coach & Horses Ground as it is otherwise known. Not much has changed since I last visited a couple of years ago. Two sides are open standing with a scoreboard in-between them, the East Side has a partial covered terrace along with the ‘Wall of Football’, where celebrities names appear, though, the one time top of the list, a certain Mr Sepp Blatter, is now covered with a sticker. Behind the goal to the south is where the club has their buildings, committee room, club shop, changing rooms etc alongside a covered seated area.

As the ever changing weather went about its business the sides came out and got the game underway. As the game was still settling down the hosts were forced into a change as Gascoigne limped off, both sides tried to take control but neither keeper was getting particularly tested. An evenly matched half was being played out and it looked like it would take something special to break the deadlock. Five minutes before half-time we got it.

Though different and special, spectacular it was not. Town won a corner on the right wing. Swung in by midfielder Gregory, Sheffield’s keeper came out to clear and punched the ball into his own net. Souter chased the referee claiming he had been impeded, the decision was not going to change (it never does), Town were 1-0 up.

Another enforced substitute for the home side before the break looked to confirm that this was not going to be their day.

Ossett Town took control after the break, looking the more dangerous and creating good chances, Hancock started to pull the reds defence more, Curtis threatened from deep and their passing became more crisp. Unfortunately for Town, target man and skipper Peterson was not having his best day. A clear chance at the far post was somehow skewed wide followed shortly after by finding himself totally unamrked on the edge of the box, his effort was straight at Souter.

With 15 minutes to go, Town finally found another way through and kill off this tie. Again the goal came from a corner, though this was more conventional, centre-half Snowden rising well above the rest and finding the back of the net.

Sheffield tried their best to get a foothold in the game and pressed forward, but all too often either failed to pull the trigger or deliver a decent final ball. Ossett Town deservedly find themselves in the draw tomorrow. On another day it might have been different.

ADDED ON

Monday evening I was at Maine Road, meeting up with fellow hopper George Cheetham. The hosts were entertaining Congleton Town in the NWCFL Premier Division. Three and a half years earlier I had seen these two play in the same fixture, Road winning 2-0.

For 65 minutes, this match was pretty awful. Some of the passing would have shamed pub sides, but all of a sudden it woke up in the 65th minute with a penalty for the Bears. Carey converting past Livesey, who can count himself very lucky to still be on the field after conceding the spot-kick with a foul.

Five minutes later and a huge game changer, the visitors were reduced to 10 when Mbowe was sent off for pulling back a Road striker who was through on goal. Once it was clear the assistant had seen it then there was only going to be one outcome. Doon after 2 goals in 2 minutes from Mason and Williams turned the match on its head.

Twenty Four hours late and I was at Stormy Corner to watch Skelmersdale United entertain Trafford. A game of two halves, the visitors on top in the opening 45, United the better team after the break.

Linwood opened the scoring for Trafford on the quarter hour mark, though Dean tried his best to claim it and looked to be offside, Owens left Mason for dead to fire the deserved equaliser shortly after the break. Fair result in the end.

GAMES

Mon: Maine Road 2 Congleton Town 1

Tues: Skelmersdale United 1 Trafford 1

Sat: Sheffield FC 0 Ossett Town 2

FACTS

Games: 406

Goals:  1380

Grounds: 196

Games since a 0-0: 19

SOUNDTRACK

The Charlatans – The Charlatans

Too Involved

Weird, but for some reason, I like it.

 

GAME OF THE WEEK

Leyton Orient 2 Maidstone United 0

Vanarama National League

Attendance: 5,085

Gate: £17

Programme: £3

You would think that after 400+ games I would be able to plan a day out correctly wouldn’t you? Well, think again. Another cheap away day courtesy of Virgin Trains and I was looking forward to a day in the smoke. Following doing my research on the good old world wide web I settled for Hampton & Richmond Borough.

Or so I thought. A final look into my plans midweek, showed engineering works that would mean I could not make it to the Beveree Stadium. Damn. I had to make a decision quickly, so Leyton Orient it was. Ticket bought on their website and I was off to E10. On Friday, I realised that th World Athletics Championships were on a little under 2 miles away. Do your research!

 

Though to be fair, the running round a track (never got that personally, I understand running from a to b, but round in a big circle? Nope, just stay where you are) games did not cause me any harm. In fact the journey both ways was more than satisfactory. Alighting at Leyton Underground, Brisbane Road, as I have always known it, is a 10 minute stroll away.

Ticket collected from the main stand on Oliver Road I made my way back round to Brisbane Road and into the East Stand. I must say that Orient’s home has to be one of the weirdest grounds I have ever been to. The West Stand on Oliver Road looks completely normal on the outside until you notice that there is a Polyclinic near the main entrance. Both sides have blocks of modern flats attached to them, to the point it is difficult to distinguish which is flats and which is club. Only the old East Stand looks normal, though at the North Stand end, the flats come right into the ground. Weird, but for some reason, I like it.

 

Pasty and drink purchased, seat found, I opened my programme. There was a little sticker album in it and a few stickers to put in it. Marvellous for the kids, both young and old. By the way, if somebody wants mine, let me know and I will get it to you.

As we waited for the teams to come out, Maidstone’s travelling army started singing, apart from at half-time I don’t think they stopped all afternoon. Sides out, into the sun and off we went. The hosts started brightly, but it only took a few minutes for United to show danger, especially on the break. In fact, the best chance of the half fell to the visitors in the 20th minute when Pigott volleyed straight at Grainger in the home goal, looked easier to score. The rest of the opening half was played out with the final ball all too often missing.

The O’s started the brighter after the break but once again there was a lack of quality in the final third, Bonne firing wide when free looked as though he was going to sum the game up. However, all that changed on the hour, an excellent cross from Dayton was headed home by Mooney, good strike that beat Worgan all ends up, and the game improved almost instantly as the hosts turned up the heat trying to find a second.

Bonne went close again a couple of times, Mooney missed a glorious chance at the far post as the hosts looked very dangerous on their right wing. As time ticked away to the final whistle, Maidstone started to throw more bodies forward and in the 90th minute they thought they had rescued a point. Pigott twisted and turned on the edge of the area, his low shot was turned away by Grainger but the ball was loose in the area, Sam-Yorke just beat Grainger to the ball and fired into the empty goal. United and their 595 fans celebrated, but only for a few seconds as the linesman raised his flag. I can only presume the Maidstone number 9 was offside for the original shot. The home fans took their turn to celebrate.

They did again a couple of minutes later as salt was rubbed into the wound, substitute Boco was away in the clear and then showed his team-mates ho to finish in such a finish, 2-0 to the O’s.

 

Time to head home, a thoroughly enjoyable day, thanks to the visiting fans for making a great atmosphere and Leyton Orient for the rest, love your ground, in a weird way.

 

ADDED ON

After a day at the cricket last Saturday I headed over the hills to South Yorkshire on Sunday to the oldest ground in the world, to watch the second oldest team in the world, play in the oldest competition in the world.

I honestly thought Bootle would win, but they were never at the races. Hallam ruled from start to finish and the 3-0 scoreline did not flatter them. A date with Atherton Collieries awaits. Don’t write The Countrymen off just yet.

Just over 24 hours later and I was back over the Penines again for a first ever visit to Bradford Park Avenue. A cracker of a game with Southport made the trip worthwhile. End to end stuff with chances for both sides going begging.

With the match evenly poised, ex-Manchester City full-back Javan Vidal saw red and the visitord nicked the game at the death.

Tuesday saw me at Moss Rose, my third visit, recently relegated Hartlepool United the visitors on this wet August evening.

Really a match of two halves as the hosts were better before the break, going in 1-0 up thanks to a Whitaker glancing header shortly on 38 minutes. The ‘Monkey Hangers’ equalising, also with a header, just before the hour through Cassidy. A draw was probably a fair outcome.

GAMES

Sun: Hallam 3 Bootle 0

Mon: Bradford Park Avenue 1 Southport 2

Tues: Macclesfield Town 1 Hartlepool United 1

Sat: Leyton Orient 2 Maidstone United 0

FACTS

Games: 403

Goals:  1373

Grounds: 196

Games since a 0-0: 16

SOUNDTRACK

A Catholic Education – Teenage Fanclub

Living In Another World

Thank you Serbia, thank you Belgrade!

SERBIAN TRIP pt 3

Rad 0 Crvena Zverda 2

Serbian Superliga

Attendance: 2,000

Gate: 400 Serbian Dinar (£2.98)

Programme: Not produced

Last night in Serbia and the final part of my trip saw me heading a little further away from my hotel, but not that far. As the Serbian summer had saved the heat for my final day there was no way I was walking 3 miles uphill in temperatures above 30 degrees, so a few dinars were spent on a taxi.

Due to Rad’s opponents I thought that tickets would be at a premium, so with the ticket office opening a couple of hours before I was at the King Petar 1 Stadium in plenty of time. Ticket bought, I now had those couple of hours to kill, it was time to find some shade and drink plenty of water. I had never experienced heat like this.

The coach carrying the Red Star team arrived under heavy escort, the police were out in force, it was time to go into the ground and one of the best stands I have ever been in. The ground only has 2 sides, the other 2 are fenced off with club property including training areas surrounding these. To the South is where Rad’s Ultras congregate, a separate entrance for the ‘United Force’.

The main stand was split, the visitors had a portion towards the north of the stand, the home fans next to their Ultras. This stand had some seating on a lower level and then the rest of us on the upper tier. I am not sure what the history of this stand is, but it looks like it has seen better times, older pictures show a roof on the stand, no longer there.

It was still 32 degrees at kick-off, the heat was oppressive but the players and ultras just got on with it. I melted. Whilst there was endeavour at the start of the match, neither team looked likely of scoring early on, Rad looked intent on stopping Red Star play, to frustrate and spoil, and they were being successful as well as attacking on the break.

In the 38th minute we had a breakthrough, a corner was swung in to the far post and Le Tallec, younger brother of the once Liverpool striker, looped his header back over the keeper and over the line to break the deadlock. It was just starting to look as though Red Star were getting frustrated.

The second half started with Rad having a go, whilst the final ball often let them down, they also hit the woodwork after 55 minutes from a close range shot. This warning was heeded by the visitors, they took control, should have scored several more and never looked in danger of losing their lead. Rad gave it their best, but were outclassed by their more illustrious neighbours who finally killed the game off in injury time. Pesic who missed a golden chance not long after the hour, headed in at the far post to kill any hope.

I was away from the ground sharpish to head off back to my hotel, as were the Red Star team, passing me within minutes on their team bus.

My trip to the Balkans was over, a match lighter than anticipated but thoroughly enjoyable none the less. Thank you Serbia, thank you Belgrade!

FACTS

Games: 399

Goals:  1363

Grounds: 194

Games since a 0-0: 12

MILESTONE

11th new ground in 11 games, beating previous record

SOUNDTRACK

The Colour of Spring – Talk Talk

2:1

This was the ground that Manchester United played Red Star Belgrade in 1958. The ground that was the last for a number of the Busby Babes. Moving.

SERBIAN TRIP pt 2

Partizan 2 Javor-Matis 1

Serbian Superliga

Attendance: 4,000

Gate: 450 Serbian Dinar (£3.35)

Programme: Not produced

 

Part two of my Serbian adventure had to be put on hold for 24 hours, as word came through just as I was about to board my coach south to Nis, that the game had been postponed due to ground improvements not being ready.

So Saturday night was planned for Partizan v Javor-Matis, to be fair I do not know that much about the hosts, the opposition? Ignorant, totally ignorant. To be fair, Wikipedia does not give you too much more.

So off I set from my hotel in 30 degrees for the 15 minutes walk to Partizan Stadium. Arriving with an hour to kick-off there was such a difference from Thursday evening in numbers and atmosphere. Next, buy a ticket. Easier said than done, the ticket office is not part of the ground and is 10 minutes walk away from the club shop. Eventually located, ticket in hand, now I just had to wait for the gates to open.

With 35 minutes to the start they opened up, to be honest, no need for much longer due to the crowd size. Once inside there was little in the way of refreshments, a guy pouring Coke, Ice Tea, Fanta or Water from bottles and charging a fair bit by Serbian standards.

The crowd filtered in bit by bit, that is apart from away fans, I cannot remember ever going to another game where there was not a single away fan. Even when they have been banned.

The Partizan Stadium, to give it one of its names, JNA Stadion and Fudbalski Hram (Temple of Football) the others, all seater, the Ultras in the South Stand, the rest of us in the West and East. This was the ground that Manchester United played Red Star Belgrade in 1958. The ground that was the last for a number of the Busby Babes. Moving.

We kicked off under the evening Belgrade sun in temperatures not much below 30 and still quite humid, we only had to wait 6 minutes for the hosts to take the lead, young playmaker Kosovic spraying the ball out wide for his skipper Vulicevic, his cross was inch perfect, leaving Durdevic to rise unmarked, heading down into the ground and up into the roof of the net from 10 yards, class goal.

Whilst the score remained the same at the break it was not for lack of chances at both ends. Whilst Partizan were the better side and should have had 5 or 6, it was thanks to their keeper Kljajic that they had not conceded.

After the interval the game carried on pretty much as it had left off, Partizan the better side, but Javor-Matis looking dangerous on the break, Kosovic dictating play. That was until five minutes to go when a smart move down their right wing saw Miletic play a smart ball across to Soumah who finished easily to put the hosts 2-0 up. Game over. Well not quite. With a minute left of the 90 a free-kick was swung in from out wide by the visitors, defender Milovic rising the highest and his glancing header found its way just inside the far post. Not a single cheer was to be heard. Game on.

Still no matter how much Javor tried, Partizan saw out the rest of the game but there was a sense of relief among the 4,000 in attendance. I mooched off back to my hotel, took me about 15 minutes.

 

FACTS

Games: 398

Goals:  1361

Grounds: 193

Games since a 0-0: 11

MILESTONE

Total Attendance past 200k

SOUNDTRACK

Elastica – Elastica