I Wish I Was James Bond

Don’t take this the wrong way, I know it might sound odd
I’m the next double-0, I’m the right man for the job

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GAME OF THE WEEK

Lancaster City 1 Mildenhall Town 0

The Buildbase FA Trophy Third Round Qualifying

Attendance: 242

Gate: £8

Programme: £2

Sometimes you just end up at a game that you had no intention of attending. This FA Trophy cup-tie is a prime example of that.

Originally I had booked tickets for a Virgin Trains first class service to London during one of their sales. Then my much better half said we were going to go away for a cheap weekend somewhere. So for less than £100 we had return train tickets to Lancashire’s County City from Manchester and 2 nights in the local Travelodge. A quick check of fixtures and City were away. So a Saturday off.

George Cheetham made use of the London tickets, though he ended up picking a 0-0er, and I was ready for my break. The weekend before I noticed that the Dolly Blues were actually at home in the Trophy to Mildenhall Town. No, I am not going to go, a weekend off. As we pulled in to Lancaster Station, I was asked as to if there was a local match on so that some peace and an afternoon kip could be had, so I had to tell the truth didn’t I? A little before 2:30pm I set off for the Giant Axe.

It was January 2015 the last time I visited Lancaster’s home and in the nigh on three years the admission price has not gone up, good on you folks. Another memory from that visit was the delicious food served up by Dolly’s Diner. Here was something else that hadn’t changed.

City’s home can be seen from from the northern end of Lancaster Station, and anyone heading to the North of England or Scotland on the West Coast line would have to have their head buried in reading material not to notice the blues home.

Entering behind the goal to the south, this is a gem of a ground. There is open terracing at the South End, opposite is the covered Neil Marshall Legend Stand, a standing terrace named in honour of the club’s ex-skipper who passed away just over a year ago at the age of 31. To the west is the Main Stand, a covered seating area which has the clubhouse attached. Opposite this is the Railway Side with it’s brilliantly weird structure that is made up of the fans bar and sponsors lounge.

As the match started it was soon apparent that a fair few fans had made the 240 mile trip from Suffolk to support their team, and their team did them proud. An even contest that could have gone either way.

In the opening 45 minutes, in which clear cut chances were at a premium, two incidents stood out, one to each side. City had a header by defender Williams from a corner that smashed against the bar with Town’s keeper Roach rooted to the ground. At the opposite end a scuffed clearance by City’s stopper Powell looped straight up into the air and Hall’s Brown was presented with a half chance, surely he would have a go and hook the ball over his head towards the totally unguarded goal? No. The chance went and we finished the half 0-0.

Hot drink bought to keep the cold off the teams were soon back out and we got underway again.

In conditions not helping either keeper, both used a number of lives  and got away without being at fault for a goal, though quite how they managed it for 90 minutes was some feat. As the tie wore on both teams huffed and puffed as the weather played a massive part.

A sublime ball by the Dolly Blues’ Wills playing in Carney was wasted. A hooked effort by the hosts bounced to safety off the top of the bar. Then Town had their big chance, Brown in one on one with Powell and he put it wide. As I, and a number of other fans headed towards the exit we got the winner. As a long ball and flick on saw the ball in the danger area, the last bit of play to put Kilifin in the clear appeared from my angle to be played by a City arm, this didn’t put the substitute off and he finished brilliantly to start the celebrations. Town were not happy. But the goal stood. 1-0.

A few minutes later the final whistle went. I headed back off to my hotel. For the second Saturday on the trot a very late goal had kept my run of games since my last 0-0 going and I was back in the warmth before 17:30. Bonus.

ADDED ON

A late change of plan on Monday due to a postponement. Awful weather actually meant I arrived at Widnes FC before Carlisle City did, but we still started pretty much on time. The travelling nightmare certainly did not seem to do City any harm in the opening 45 minutes as they battered their hosts, went in for the break 1-0 up, but it could easily have been 5 or 6.

After the break it was the hosts that ran the game, though City hung on and on. That was until the 90th minute when Smart equalised. Heartbreak for Carlisle? it was only going to get worse as they then lost 3-1 on penalties. Harsh. Very harsh.

Wednesday, another game and more awful conditions. Though I am not sure which was worse, the weather or the temper of the game. Both were pretty foul. Cheadle Town beating Alsager Town 2-1. Both teams having a player shown red, Alsager’s walking off ever so calmly before slamming things around the changing room, much to the amusement of those of us in the main stand. Good to see iBreezeblock for the first time in a few weeks and a huge nod towards Mr Wilks for the lift and company.

I started my weekend in Wales. At Prestatyn Town. Though i am not sure if I will be welcome for much longer. This was my third visit. This was their third defeat in these games. Though things are improving slightly, at least they finished the game with 11 men this time.

Llandudno were on top early on and deservedly took the lead, but this was the cue for Town to come back into the ‘Seasiders Derby’. Chances were being created but going begging until early in the second half when the visitors extended their lead twice in the awful weather. Town got a late consolation which was the least they deserved, personally 3-1 was a very harsh scoreline, and they had a claim for a draw.

The day after the Lancaster City match as we wandered through the City Centre, we were treated to Scouting for Girls doing a small set as the city lights were turned on. All glamour here you know!

GAMES

Mon: Widnes 1 Carlisle City 1 (3-1 pens)

Wed: Cheadle Town 2 Alsager Town 1

Fri: Prestatyn Town 1 Llandudno 3

Sat: Lancaster City 1 Mildenhall Town 0

FACTS

Games: 444

Goals:  1507

Grounds: 209

Games since a 0-0: 57

Milestone: Cheadle Town’s opener, scored by Richard Wyatt, was my 1500th goal.

Random Fact: Monday’s penalty shoot-out was my 5th in 441 games. I can expect my next one in another 88 games or so.

SOUNDTRACK

Scouting for Girls – Scouting for Girls

Lovely Allen

Holy F**k

GAME OF THE WEEK

Atherton LR 0 FC Oswestry Town 1

The Hallmark Security League First Division

Attendance: 62

Gate: £5

Programme: £1.50

Forty days before this match I picked the same number of games that Mr Wilks and I could possibly attend. Day by day, one by one they were randomly whittled down until on Friday we had the games at Atherton LR and Parkgate remaining. The said Mr Wilks then picked the Rotherham based club to fall by way side.

So what could have been a day out was just a short trip around the M60 we arrived just as the teams were going back into the changing rooms after their warm up. Paying our money we entered Crilly Park. This was my fifth visit to a ground that I have a fondness for. A weird slope that looks as though it is kind of diagonal from the corner near where you enter the ground down to the opposite one.

Crilly Park itself is a bit weird, the top end is open standing as is the bottom end, though the latter has some kind of shed set back that looks like it was a stand (or part of) once upon a time. The Hag Fold side has a mixture of covered stands for standing along with space either side that is open standing. The Main Stand is a fairly big structure opposite that has the dugouts in front of it, you enter the ground north of this structure, to the south is the clubhouse, although this is accessed via the car park, the changing rooms are part of this building and tucked away in the corner is the snack bar, where a pretty damn decent meat & potato pie is served.

My last visit to Crilly Park was on 26 November last year for the same fixture, 51 weeks later, lightning surely could not strike again. Could it?

LR kicked up the slope in the first half. The floodlights came on midway through the half and LR’s keeper was the victim of a late challenge, to which he said afterwards “it’s a good job I’m fat”. That was really it for the opening 45 minutes. Both teams tried. The pitch was very heavy. Half-time came.

And went.

And the second half started in the same vein. A very tight affair, both defences catching the opposition offside a lot. Oh, I nearly forgot, FC Oswestry Town were now kicking up the hill.

Almost suddenly, with about 15 minutes to go, the game started to change. It started to stretch out, half chances were being created. Both sides sniffed the chance of victory and started to go for it. Mr Wilks had accepted a 0-0, I predicted a late winner. For once, my prediction powers were spot on as Town broke away after an LR attack, I announced that this was the winner. Oswestry won a corner, played in, the ball dropped for Morris, he slammed it home giving Hartley in goal no chance. 1-0.

LR poured forward, the game had really sprung into life. The hosts won a corner, Hartley was waved forward by his bench. He waved them off. Had a change of heart and set off. It was too late the corner was already on its way. he started to scamper back as Town cleared their lines, the forward was then tackled by Hartley some 35 yards from goal and looked to launch an attack. Now he was out of goal, he didn’t want to go back, another attack broke down, but then started again. A member of the visitors bench was shrieking at the referee to blow up. He did. Town, for the second year running, left with 3 points.

A different way home, via the M61, and I was home by 5:20. Bonus.

ADDED ON

Thursday night in Bacup. Where else in the world would you rather be? Though it did feel at times as though it would never happen. West View or The Brian Boys Stadium as it is now called is not known for its ability to cope with rain, so in the morning when the heavens opened in the north-west the game had to be in doubt. St Helens Town were the back-up.

Then the news filtered through that we were on. Mr Wilks picked me up and we set off, only to spend the next 25 minutes slowly making our way round the M60. Would we make it in time? Just as we got to the M66 the traffic cleared and we gained speed. Parked up, in the ground, buying some of the excellent home made pie made by Debra Connor, the teams came out. If Borough were as good as the pie they would be much higher up the footballing pyramid, a lot higher.

Unfortunately they aren’t and it was AFC Blackpool that pretty much bossed things here at the start. An early error by Price in the home goal gave Duffield an easy chance which he converted in the 10th minute, followed around the half hour by an own goal, I think it was Bryan who gave Price no chance from a corner with a bullet header, 2-0.

Give credit where it is due, Bacup tried everything they could to get back into this. An almighty goalmouth scramble on the stroke of half-time where I think Borough had enough chances to win the game alone. With 10 minutes remaining Bacup got some reward for their efforts, Constantine scoring from outside the box, before all the good work was undone as Banda was sent off and the hosts were reduced to 10 men.

The journey home was an absolute nightmare thanks to the Highways Agency closing so many junctions in the Manchester area. Made it eventually though.

GAMES

Thu: Bacup Borough 1 AFC Blackpool 2

Sat: Atherton LR 0 FC Oswestry Town 1

FACTS

Games: 440

Goals:  1497

Grounds: 209

Games since a 0-0: 53

Milestone: AFC Blackpool’s 2nd goal was my 150th of the season. Officially given to Billy McKenna, it was an own goal.

Random Fact: FC Oswestry Town kept the 197th clean sheet I have seen

SOUNDTRACK

LP – Holy Fuck

Shimmy Shimmy Ya

Ooh, baby, I like it raw
Yeah baby, I like it raw

GAME OF THE WEEK

Gresley 1 Bedworth United 2

The Evo-Stik South

Attendance: 291

Gate: £8

Programme: £1.50

Sometimes, just sometimes, things work out for the best.

I had planned to go to Pontefract Collieries. Then they won in the FA Vase. Whoever made the draw picked them out of the bag for an away draw. My buddy Mr Wilks let it be known he was up for a trip. A look at the fixtures, and there was one place that I kept coming back to. Gresley.

So on an overcast Manchester Saturday lunchtime we set off for the East Midlands. Down the M6, off at Junction 16, past Stoke-on-Trent and the rest of the Potteries and on to Uttoxeter. A planned stop for lunch. Cods Corner chippy. If you are ever in the area give it a go, delicious. Food eaten. On to Church Gresley and Moat Ground the home of Gresley FC.

What a place Moat Ground is. I love it. Gresley have been here for 111 years, a couple of the areas look as though they are still original parts, but what character. If you have never been here it is an absolute must. Entry is either on Moat Lane or Church Street, if you use the latter you will miss the pair of club guys selling programmes and golden goals, quite a duo.

The ‘top’ or Oxford Street end is inaccessible for supporters, though you can regularly see a ballboy shimmying precariously along the top of the wall behind the goal. Moving anti-clockwise is the Queen Street Side. The area is quite narrow, but still has room for a  covered seated area and a couple of covered standing areas. Carrying on round, behind the goal at the Church Street end is both open and covered standing in, again, a quite narrow area. Finally, on to the gem that is the Moat Lane/Main Stand side. A raised supporters clubhouse, mini terrace areas either side of the Main Stand, which in itself is a deep and quirky structure. Includes the changing rooms, press box, food hut. All finished off with a covered standing area at the top near the Oxford Street end.

Prior to the match getting underway there was a presentation to home captain Barrett for a club record number of appearances (over 600), followed by a mark of respect silence on Remembrance Day, observed by all apart from those coming out of the supporters clubhouse. Once the match kicked off the hosts looked to push forward on a very heavy pitch that looked to hamper the visitors who are used to their flat 3G pitch. Chances were at a premium early on, but slowly the game started to open up.

The hosts had a couple of half chances before the visitors very nearly took the lead in the 28th minute, noted because it was Mr Wilks’ golden goal time. A cross from the left was turned goalbound by home defender Eggington, who must have been relieved to see Hawkins change direction and pull off a very good stop. Back came Gresley, but they just didn’t appear to have that cutting edge up front. At the opposite end, Christie and Keen weren’t getting the service, until the 37th minute, Christie slicing an effort in the air, he picked up the loose ball and after tantalising the home defence, he found Keen in space who gave United the lead, 1-0.

After the break, we continued in the same vein, nice build up play from Gresley, but without a decent final ball, Bedworth looking dangerous up top, but all too often the pass up to their forwards was wayward. On the hour it was 2-0. A ball in from the right somehow found its way to Keen at the far post and he finished easily, the Greenbacks lead had been doubled.

Ten minutes later it should have been 3-0, last weeks star Bailey-Nicholls had come on as a substitute had a glorious chance at the far post and somehow put the chance wide. With a dozen minutes left the hosts got back into the match, as United cleared a home attack the ball ricocheted into the path of the hard working Melbourne and he remained composed to finish past Crane, 2-1.

A couple of minutes later, encouraged by the home fans, Gresley poured forward, a defleced effort looped onto the bar, the rebound gave Manship a glorious chance. He missed. He ballooned it.

A free-kick from 25 yards out for United was hit well by Rowe forcing Hawkins into a brilliant save. Before we moved into added on time, 5 minutes, as a loose ball was cleared by a United defender into a neighbouring garden, we found out that Gresley had run out of balls. Finding a replacement took up the majority of the time they had.

That was that. Bedworth United left with 3 points. Two weeks running I have seen them win 2-1. I had better stay away from The Oval next week or Lincoln United might get upset!

As Mr Wilks drove us back to Manchester as we planned next week and marvelled at Gresley’s home. It really is a gem.

ADDED ON

Derby week.

After being moved from the Friday to the Wednesday it was off to the Cross Border Derby, Chester v Wrexham. Bit of a weird one this as most of Chester’s ground is actually in Wales, including where I was sat with Mr Wilks for the evening.

A delayed kick-off, minutes silence, the worst playing of ‘The Last Post’ I have ever heard later and we finally got underway. Chester were let down by a lack of composure in the frantic opening 45 minutes, having the better chances, but it was the visitors who went into the break in the lead, Pearson nodding in from a free-kick swung into the box.

For the half hour after the break, until the blues took Akintunde off, they were the better side, the tricky midfielder ran at the Wrexham defence and caused problems, he clipped the top of the bar, after Dawson had smashed an effort against the post. Chester couldn’t find a way through. Once the substitution had been made, Chester really lost all their threat and the reds were comfortable towards the end, 1-0 to the team from Wales.

Friday and another derby.

This was not just another derby. What a cracker. Fourteen months ago West won 6-0 at Irlam on a Friday night. This could easily have seen a similar difference for the away team. In fact West were lucky it wasn’t double figures. They just could not cope with the pace and directness of the Irlam attack.

Goals came in flurries in the 1st half. 17,20,22 minutes saw Irlam go 1 then 2 up and West pull one back. Just before half-time in the 41st minute it was all level, by the time the teams had gone in Irlam had restored their 2 goal lead. What a first half, 4-2 to Irlam.

Straight after the break came the goal of the night, Tinkerfor West letting leash from distance after a long run, on the hour the 2 goal lead was reestablished in style by Boland. Irlam continued to have chance after chance, West the occasional one.

What a match. And on a night when England ‘held their own’ in a 0-0 friendly draw against Germany. Hmm, I know where I would rather be.

GAMES

Wed: Chester 0 Wrexham 1

Fri: West Didsbury & Chorlton 3 Irlam 5

Sat: Gresley 1 Bedworth United 2

FACTS

Games: 438

Goals:  1493

Grounds: 209

Games since a 0-0: 51

Milestone: 50 games since my last 0-0.

Random Fact: 1st time since May I have seen 3 away wins on the bounce.

SOUNDTRACK

Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version – Ol’ Dirty Bastard

Can’t Stand Me Now

If you want to try
If you want to try
There’s no worse you could do

GAME OF THE WEEK

Bedworth United 2 Cleethorpes Town 1

The Evo-Stik South

Attendance: 193

Gate: £9

Programme: £2

Back to the home of football.

The wonder that is Google Images Search picked this one for me, as soon as I saw the Main Stand I couldn’t resist. So on a sunny autumnal morning I headed off on my adventure.

Two trains later I was at Manchester Piccadilly and then off to my next stop Stoke-on-Trent, another change and I was off to Nuneaton. A final change and I was finally at Bedworth. United’s ground is a short walk from the station, past the boarded up British Queen and Mayor’s Cafe, a left turn into the Miners Welfare Park and you are at the turnstile.

Money paid, I came to a gent selling 50/50 tickets. Now here is a new concept, buy 2 and get another free, he told me they sell quite a few more that way. Certainly worked on me. The Oval, home of Bedworth United awaits down the incline. The two ends are open standing, one backing onto what looks like the local leisure centre with a waterslide coming out of it. It is the two sides that are the gems. Where you come in is the clubhouse. This is where the food hut is. On top of the the clubhouse are what can only be described as lookout viewing areas. Give the clubhouse an added touch. Also there were some people watching the game from the roof. Different.

Opposite is the main stand. An absolute gem. Best leaving it to the pictures below to describe it. Love it.

Bedworth started the game on the front foot and an early header by McAteer from a corner was headed off the line as they threatened to swamp The Owls. But slowly but surely it was the visitors who took control of the game. Generally tight as the half wore on, Town were the ones looking dangerous. Crane in the home goal was the busier and had to pull off a couple of smart stops to keep the game 0-0 as we headed into half-time.

After the restart the match carried on the same, and then a moment of magic, Oglesby, Clee’s left winger turned on the skill and burners, left a couple of defenders for dead, pulled the ball back for Drury. He remained as calm as anything and his finish wrong-footed Crane, 1-0 to Town.

For a while Town looked in control, but again slowly, the balance of play seemed to switch, in no small part down to Bailey-Nicholls. His running was causing the defence problems all afternoon. His equaliser with 20 minutes to go was class. On the break he cut in from the left wing and gave Walton no chance. 1-1. Game on.

Williams came on for the Greenbacks and also started causing the defence problems. With five minutes to go we had a big turning point, Town’s number 8 Flett was shown a straight red card for a poor challenge on his opposite number Blackmore. It was late and clumsy. Definitely. A straight red? Not sure about that. As we moved into the last couple of minutes a Williams cross was thumped against the post by Bailey-Nicholls, the ball was partially cleared, was worked back to Williams, his cross was this time put in by the number 2 wearing striker. United’s players went mad. They had won 2-1.

On the way home a different journey waited for me. To start I headed off to Coventry, then it was Wolverhampton and finally Manchester. A great day.

A nod this week to the musical enigma that is Pete Doherty who went to school in the town.

ADDED ON

Normally I would mention the 6 days prior to my Saturday match, however, the timing of my Polish trip stopped that. The Tuesday before that I went to AFC Emley v Eccleshill United in the NCEL League Cup 1st Round along with Jimbo Wilks.

If I carry on this kind of record at Emley I am going to find myself barred. Second visit, second defeat. After an early defeat on an Easter Groundhop weekend a couple of years ago, they lost by 2 goals again in this game. Again I saw 2 penalties, this time both scored (last time both were saved) as United ran out comfortable winners. Once again though, an enjoyable place to visit and a warm welcome.

GAMES

Tues (25/10): AFC Emley 0 Eccleshill United 2

Sat: Bedworth United 2 Cleethorpes Town 1

FACTS

Games: 435

Goals:  1481

Grounds: 208

Games since a 0-0: 48

Milestone: None

Random Fact: 93rd red card

SOUNDTRACK

The Libertines – The Libertines

Union City Blues

Oh, oh, what are we gonna do?
Union, Union, Union City blue

Poland Trip part four

GAME

Lechia Gdansk 0 Korona Kielce 5

Ekstraklasa

Attendance: 7,066

Gate: 200 zloty (£41.65). VIP Prestige.

Programme: Not available.

Purchasing my ticket online I decided to treat myself. Considering I would struggle to get in most Premier League grounds for £40, let alone sample any kind of hospitality it was a no brainer as a one off for me.

Unsure of what to expect, I arrived at the Stadion Energa Gdansk or the Baltic Arena as it is called without sponsorship, a little too early. The sheer size of the place is breathtaking. On top of that the amber colour makes this a spectacle whenever it comes into view. I had a wander around the outside concourse. Once again the bitter Baltic wind was biting away at the few of us brave enough to be out in it.

Finding my entrance, I practically dived inside to get away from the wind and was welcomed by a number of hostesses who welcomed me and pointed me in the direction of the refreshments on offer. Free food and drink was available and appeared to be for the whole of the time I was there, a meal of chicken, potatoes and some vegetables was delicious.

Suitably fed and watered it was time for the sides to come out, and so I went to find my seat. Top row at the end, ideal, first seat I had come to. Padded leather. Plenty of room between seats and leg room in front. I approve.

Out came the teams and the Lechia ultras did their utmost to raise their heroes, the only problem was that you could hear the leader over the PA system over the fans. Shame really.

Five minutes in and Lechia hit the post, smart passing move and Wolski hammered an effort off the woodwork. This was followed a few minutes later by a chance from an acute angle for Katcharava, his effort was tipped over by Kuciak in the Lechia goal. Although not the keepers finest moment of the night it was not too far off.

The game seemed to be going nowhere when with 25 minutes gone a smart pass by Zubrowski found Katcharava in acres of space, he picked his spot and fired home. 1-0. The next 20 minutes must count amongst the worst for Lechia for some time. They fell apart. Their fans turned on them and Korona added another 3 goals. All before the break.

On the half hour, a great run and through ball by Mozdzen was cut out at the last moment by Lewandowski only for the ball to break to Gorski to roll into the empty goal. 2-0. Thirty-eighth minute and a corner swung in by Mozdzen was flicked on at the near post by Kovacevic straight into the path of the unmarked Rymaniak arriving at the far post. He easily finished. 3-0. With a minute to the whistle, the worst of the lot. A ball from Rymaniak rolled across the box, everyone watched, apart from Katcharava, who slid in and lifted the ball past the keeper. 4-0.

Half-time. I was off for food and drink. I am sure Lechia did not receive such good hospitality in that 15 minutes.

After the break was a walk in the park for the visitors. At 4-0 up it pretty much has to be. Apart from Rymaniak tried to turn a cross past Gostomski in his own goal, somehow it was kept out, the visitors controlled the game. A penalty was awarded to them midway through the second period, Romario Balde bringing down Ken Kallaste. Yes, Ken! Zubrowski saw his poor effort easily saved by Kuciak. That was his best moment.

Korona didn’t have to wait too long before the fifth, with just over 15 to go, Kosakiewicz slid the ball in from the right for substitute Soriano to tap home. 5-0.

That was that. A night to forget for the Welsh first team coach of the hosts Adam Owen.

Pre-Match

A great day spent in Gdansk. I experienced Polish dumplings, a bit like ravioli.

The main highlight of the day though was a trip to the ‘Solidarnosc’ museum. A very informative trip into the lives of the people who helped to change the face of the world. Memories of the television pictures from 1981 came flooding back and the gates where the demands and crowds to support the strikers, a poignant moment.

Post Match

A taxi home from right outside the stadium, back to the hotel, to pack my bags and finish my trip.

Thank you Poland!

FACTS

Games: 434

Goals:  1478

Grounds: 207

Games since a 0-0: 47

Milestone: 700th away goal – Maciej Gorski (Korona Kielce)

Random Fact: 32nd penalty save out of 136

SOUNDTRACK

Eat to the Beat – Blondie

I’m Free

I’m free to do what I want any old time
I say, love me, hold me, love me, hold me
‘Cause I’m free to do what I want any old time

Poland Trip part three

GAME

Legia Warszawa 2 Arka Gdynia 0

Ekstraklasa

Attendance: 14,428

Gate: 70 zloty (£15.62).

Programme: 3 zloty (£0.63)

Standing just inside the turnstile, out in the open, in driving freezing rain is hardly my idea of fun. But that is exactly what I was doing 90 minutes before kick-off at the Polish Army Stadium on Sunday evening.

This was the only Ekstraklasa game that I had not been able to pre-purchase a ticket for, inquiring over the phone as to the possible availability, I was told it shouldn’t be a problem. If I had known it would be 17,000 empty seats of  problem I would have stayed in the warmth of a cafe or restaurant a bit longer.

Anyway, the reason for me standing in the rain was due to the fact I had my tablet with me. Given the reaction of some of the stewards this was akin to a machete or something as they all started shouting. Five minutes later I was searched (again) by somebody new and led away. Trying my best to explain I was on a day trip from Gdansk I was led into the under stadium car park and told I would have to leave my tablet with a kind of reception area and I could collect it after the game.

Back out into the rain and the marquee area I had clocked to get a warm drink and some fairly decent scran of sausage and pork steak. Very tasty. Food scoffed, I made my way up the steps to have a look at the ground and was pleasantly surprised to see the playing area glassed off and therefore fairly wind free.

Finally with 10 minutes to kick-off I made my way to my seat in the Kazimierz Deyna Stand and got ready for kick-off. Once again the Ultras kept us all entertained, though this display was far more about chanting than the visual display offered in Poznan. The noise they made for the few thousand in attendance was incredible, a full stadium must be some experience.

Underway, the opening was cagey and a little error strewn, until the 10th minute. Then the visitors had a decent bit of build up play before an effort by Kun from 20 yards stung Malarz’s palms in the home goal. From the resulting corner an effort by Siemasko flew across the front of the goal where the slightest touch would have surely taken it into the back of the net.

Whilst Legia were in control it took them 30 minutes to test the Arka stopper, Guilherme with an almost identical effort to Kun’s being saved spectacularly by Steinbors. The diminutive Brazilian seeing this as time to rouse the crowd even more. Legia were now picking up their game and moments later the midfielder set up Niezgoda at the near post, but his effort was blocked.

In the 37th minute the hosts took the lead, a free-kick curled in low by Macynski was swept home by Niezgoda who looked suspiciously offside, he even seemed to think so himself, but no flag, correctly as it turned out, 1-0. It was all Legia now, and with minutes to go before the interval a loose high ball in the area was spectacularly scissor kicked to goal by Guilherme only for the effort to be stopped brilliantly by Steinbors.

Back to the warmth of the concourse for the interval for 15 minutes before back out into the cold but noisy arena.

It looked like only a matter of time before Legia added a second, on the hour Guilherme had an effort blocked by a brave block from the visitors defence. Seemingly bored with all the action at the other end Legia’s Spanish central defender Astiz tried to turn a cross into his own net, Malarz reacting brillianly to claw the ball away for a corner.

We entered the last 15 minutes, Kucharczyk was set up by Guilherme and smashed an effort against the bar from a tight angle with the help of a fingertip from Steinbors. Determined to get a second, the 2 players involved in the last move swapped roles and both back heeled the ball in the 6 yard box only to see Steinbors save on the line. Finally, with 5 minutes remaining the second came, on the break Kucharczyk was free and this time Steinbors could not do a thing, 2-0. Game over.

Pre-Match

So, an internal flight, always a source of intrigue. LOT Polish Airlines were to be no different. A propellor plane too. On a day when 100 kmph winds were forecast. What could go wrong? As we waited at the beginning of the runway for a plane landing, I was delighted to see the Ryanair plane get quite low before pulling up again. It was getting blown all over. So we would wait then? Not likely. Straight to it, a few yards in and we aborted the effort.

Now I am not scared of flying at all. But as we turned around on the runway, went straight back and turned around again I was beginning to wonder if this was  the day I would meet my maker. Attempt number two was successful in the end, though how we got up I have no idea and when we did we got blown all over the place.

Somehow safely in Warsaw, I had a mooch around the old town. Not a place for a Sunday as most things appeared to be closed.

Post Match

Once I had collected my tablet, a taxi ride to the airport later, I was on my return flight to Gdansk. None of the previous malarkey. Or so I thought. Coming in to land was unbelievable. As we managed it, I hate to think what the Ryanair flight must have been like. We were tipping one way then the other, easily at 45 degrees to the runway. it was like the best roller-coaster ride ever.

FACTS

Games: 433

Goals:  1473

Grounds: 206

Games since a 0-0: 46

Milestone: 194th Clean Sheet

Random Fact: My 4th highest attendance of all-time

SOUNDTRACK

Lovegod – The Soup Dragons

I Want Some

Looking ahead, the next level we’re gonna take it to
I guess I should be happy it’s a day that we made it through

Poland Trip part two

GAME

Baltyk Gdynia 2 Swit Skolwin 1

Trzecia Liga ‘Grupa 2’

Attendance: 520

Gate: 50 zloty (£10.33). VIP ticket

Programme: Free with admission

Bit of a weird one to find this. You can see floodlights from about half a mile away, with very cold drizzle in freezing wind coming from the Baltic Sea. Not Baltyk’s ground. It was their rivals Arka. Making my way past this there was another ground just beyond it. Not Baltyk’s ground. At the very end of Olimpljska is the National Railway Stadium, or Narodowy Stadion Rugby to give it is proper name.

Approaching the turnstile I saw VIP tickets for sale, why the hell not I thought, a decision that was to pay dividends later. Free programme sheet in hand I made my way on to the ground. A quick scan around I could not find where I was supposed to go, I was soon assisted by a kind club official and shown the way to where I needed to be. Also showing me where I would be provided with refreshments at half-time.

Narodowy Stadion is a one sided affair, a raised seating area above a 3G pitch that looked very much like the one Widnes play on. The other 3 sides are all fenced off, though open to the elements you are perfectly able to view the game as a few people chose to do. Opposite the stand is the impressive looking Gdynia Arena.

Seat found and wiped down from the rain I battened down the hatches and wrapped myself up against the elements.

The 2 teams came out and it was soon apparent that the hosts were what I presume is their ‘away’ kit of all red. The visitors looking like Argentina in sky blue and white stripes with black shorts and socks. The usual handshake malarkey done we got underway. At the start of play Swit were top of the league with Baltyk one of a number of teams hot on their heels. It was the visitors that started slightly brighter though the play soon swung the other way and the hosts were creating opportunities.

After both sides went close with long range efforts it was Gdynia’s Duda who shot straight at Matloka when he should have scored. The same striker then just failed to get a touch on a cross that looked like a certain goal. Neither side was giving a quarter in this weather affected match, which looked like it might ruin this contest, but they are used to such conditions in this area of Poland. In the 39th minute the visitors took the lead, a ball over the top, a defensive error and Filipowicz was through, it looked like a very tight angle, but he did what he had to do and finished in style, 1-0.

The lead was not to last too long, a free-kick swung into the box wasn’t cleared properly, played back in, Kochanek flicked the ball up and on with an outstretched foot and Szur powered a header in off the foot of the post. 1-1 and that was it for the opening 45 minutes.

At the break I made my way into the hospitality area, where warm soup and a radiator brought warmth and feeling back to my body. Well worth the additional money.

Swit took the game by the scruff of the neck early on after the restart and had 2 or 3 opportunities that probably should have led to a goal. Though the first big chance fell to Baltyk when Duda broke at pace, played in Letniowski whose shot hit a defender on the head whilst he was stood on the line, incredible. Quite how Wojdak got to clear it I do not know, and I am not sure he does either.

Midway through the second period we got the winner, a long ball out wide was played across the goal by Kolodzieski, all the way to the far post where Kuzimski slammed the ball home to start the wild celebrations in the stands.

Both sides had chances to score again but neither managed to really trouble either keeper. Baltyk claimed 3 valuable points and closed the gap to the leaders Swit to a single point.

Pre-Match

An early morning return trip to Gdansk on a similar style train was a nice way to relax on a Saturday morning, after a change at my hotel I was back off out to catch a local train north to Gdynia Orlowo station. The 25 minutes walk in the rain was at best refreshing.

Post Match

A fast walk back to catch a train, that again was a rickety old job, back to Gdansk I made my way back to my hotel, stopping off at Kebab Star to experience a Polish kebab, a King Sandwich. Think chicken kebab on a panini. Different.

Back in my hotel I watched the Saturday night Ekstraklasa game on TV in the warmth. Ahh.

FACTS

Games: 432

Goals:  1471

Grounds: 205

Games since a 0-0: 45

Milestone: 45 games since a 0-0 is now my joint 3rd best run

Random Fact: My only game in Poland that was not shown live on TV

SOUNDTRACK

Aglio e Olio – Beastie Boys