Still Feeling Blue

I hope you’re out and happy now
Doing up the town ’cause you know how

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GAME OF THE WEEK

Irlam 2 Parkgate 1

The Buildbase FA Vase 2nd Qualifying Round

Attendance: 68

Gate: £5

Programme: £2

If it had not been for work I would not have been at this game, I would have been over the hills in Parkgate country. But I wasn’t, I was here.

It was only once I made the 5 miles journey home did I fully realise just how long it had been since my last visit to Silver Street, four weeks shy of a year or exactly 100 games. Far too long. Will not be this long again Irlam, I promise.

This ground is my ‘5 minutes journey’. Five minutes to Urmston Station, five minutes on the train, five minutes on the bus and five minutes walk up Silver Street. Easy peasy.

Clubhouse visited, Ian Williams met, hot pot bought, out to the ground to await the 2 teams. This was my 9th visit to Irlam’s home, a 50% win record for the Salford blues in my previous 8 games. My Parkgate record was just the one game, part of the Easter groundhop in 2015, a 2-1 home defeat.

Kicking off on this overcast afternoon, the hosts attacking the ’62’ end started the brighter and looked the more likely to score from the off, the reds from Rotherham just lacking that spark in the final third, the game started to get a bit niggly, something that would increase as the afternoon wore on, the referee failed to act on any of it and therefore made things worse later on.

However, halfway through the half we saw a touch of class as a move down the hosts right wing finished with Mooney coming in off the wing and firing low into the net, 1-0 Irlam. Aside from a Parkgate free-kick, which whizzed past the post the rest of the half did not leave much to remember from an entertainment point of view.

We did though see a red card and Irlam were lucky not to be reduced to 9. Following a set piece and ensuing scramble the referee blew as a visiting player was down with a head injury, with the ball still bouncing around the inevitable melee and handbags ensued. When all had been pulled apart, the blues skipper Mills had received his marching orders. Minutes later the whistle blew for half-time and Morrison’s screaming at the referee could easily have seen him see red too.

It was surely going to be a long second 45 minutes for Irlam, though to be fair they coped very well, and the big wait was for both sides out a good couple of minutes before the officials finally appeared. Give credit where it is due, you could not tell that Irlam were a man down for the rest of the game. Boland and substitute Illidge caused problems, Ledson and emergency defender Holt, looking fairly solid. Dhesi trying his best to drive the visitors forward.

With 10 minutes left the visitors grabbed an equaliser, the ball bouncing around the area, Alali rising above White and nodding in. Was I going to get an extra 30 minutes for the second time in a week? No. With five minutes to go, Irlam were awarded a penalty. No arguments, nailed on. Up step Boland, no nerves shown as he gave Ledger no chance. Game won.

So it was time to head home, courtesy of Ian Williams, First Buses, Northern Rail and my old legs.

ADDED ON

Well what do I know, as I walked along Brantingham Road I thought to myself that I should have given this game a miss. So glad I did not take my own advice. What a cracker. First half bossed by the hosts, should have gone in with a far bigger lead than the 2-1 scoreline, missing 2 great chances, 1 in particular. Totally bossed it.

After the break so did the visitors, who also could probably have finished with more goals than they did. Cracker of a game, one of those that you brag about being at, thanks to both teams.

In Glasgow with work the following day, the only option available to me was Partick Thistle v Glasgow Rangers in the BetFred Quarter-Final. Another end to end game, the 0-0 scoreline at half-time was down to poor finishing and great goalkeeping. After the break the Gers missed a glorious chance before Pena, the guy with the Jake the Snake haircut flicked the ball in with his head, or his ponytails. An equaliser in the 90th minute took us into extra-time.

There was only one team in it from this point and the Blues took a deserved place in the semi-finals.

GAMES

Mon: Maine Road 2 Runcorn Town 5

Tues: Partick Thistle 1 Glasgow Rangers 3 aet

FACTS

Games: 418

Goals:  1425

Grounds: 199

Games since a 0-0: 31

Milestone: N/A

SOUNDTRACK

GP – Gram Parsons

I Feel Alright

“Outta my mind on a Saturday night”

GAME OF THE WEEK

Glossop North End 2 Kendal Town 1

The Evo-Stik North

Attendance: 318

Gate: £8

Programme: £1.50

A first for me, a blog over a 2 week period. The reason? The dreaded Manflu. As I have miraculously pulled through in time for this weekend I decided to head out to Glossop, the home of the ‘Pie Fairies’.

Catching the train into town, across the city and then on to Glossop went swimmingly well and I was soon walking from the station to the ground. It has been a little while since I was last at Surrey Street and things have changed. A change of management team. Peter Hammond, the long time secretary has stepped down and they are building houses right behind the clubhouse end. There is a club shop. Change is definitely afoot. Just make sure you keep the Pie Fairies!

On my pre-match walk aound the ground I overheard a lady say that she was going to stay overnight the next time The Hillmen got to Wembley, Step 4 is probably the hardest level of football to do that from until you get to park level, so I must say I love your optimism or pessimism if you think your team are going down.

The teams came out and the size difference was very noticeable, the hosts resembled a rugby team compared to their opponents. The opening 45 minutes offered very little to be honest. Glossop were the better side, most of what they did came via the old route one method, which by and large Kendal coped with. Meppen-Walters took care of the throw-ins, Gaul caused the hosts a few moments to think about. One of the two Matthew Russell’s that the hosts have smashed an effort against the post.

Surrey Street has a gem of a stand, opposite the turnstile the covered seating structure is a true non-league stand and one of my favourites, close to the dugouts and around the corner from covered standing, this is certainly my favourite part of the ground, apart from the Pie Fairies home that is.

After the teams re-emerged the game kicked into life, mainly due to a fairly bizarre refereeing decision, but the match roused itself. A fairly innocuous through ball by Town was played back to his keeper by Jones, an age later, as he came to a stop on his sliding pass, a forward went over his outstretched leg. The referee gave a penalty. The ball had gone. I could be wrong but it looked a strange one to me. Either way, it was given and dispatched as below.

This stirred the hosts, a double substitution was made, a change of shape, followed a few minutes later by another penalty. No! The liner had flagged Jones’ header from a Chippendale free-kick had crossed the line, 1-1. Probably saved a huge row as to if the visiting defender was going to see red or not. It was a cracking header from Jones and worthy of a goal.

North End threatened to win the game, the visitors settled for a point and that was going to be that, apart from Mr Johnson had not read the script, skillfully controlling a long ball forward he fired past Kitchen from outside the area. With a little over 5 minutes to go the game had been snatched, and whilst Glossop deserved to win, a defeat did appear harsh on Kendal Town.

The journey home was peaceful and over before I knew it.

ADDED ON

Monday night in Widnes? Why the hell not, decent fayre served up to. Widnes taking the lead through the lively Lomax after 20 minutes, followed 5 minutes later by a cracker of an equaliser by Adegbenro. After the break we had handbags, a winner through Lomax and a saved penalty that would have got the hosts over the line more comfortably. Good way to start the week.

The night after, I witnessed Bamber Bridge and in particular Ali Waddecar rip Kendal Town apart. Headlines went to Brad Carsley for his hat-trick, though the second was an own goal if ever I have seen one, it was Brig’s number 7 who ran the show.

A class act, he made the first with a superb cross that Carsley couldn’t miss from, though he did, and then put the rebound away, just. Hit the post from a free-kick. Scored a cracker himself and generally caused Kendal’s left-back the kind of night that does not come along too often. Brig are easily the best Step 4 side I have seen so far this season.

Then the dreaded manflu. Which I thought I had shook off at the weekend, so I toddled off to Brantingham Road to watch a very good Pontefract Collieries team slay Maine Road in the FA Vase. Playing like this they have a chance in this competition, but boy can they moan. Several of their players and staff in the dugout did not stop from start to finish.

As a neutral, yes decisions went against you. They also went against the host. Get over it. The two biggest errors were not sending off your defender for a, quite frankly, horrific diving in tackle. If that had connected it would have broken a leg that might still be embedded in the pitch, Also a member of your bench should have gone too for his foul-mouthed, jumping up and down on the pitch episode. I thought I could moan and whinge, but compared to a handful of this lot, pure amateur.

Bloody good footballing side, awful manners and absolutely no respect for the officials.

GAMES

Mon 4th: Widnes 2 Congleton Town 1

Tues 5th: Bamber Bridge 4 Kendal Town 0

Sat 9th: Maine Road 1 Pontefract Collieries 5

Sat 16th: Glossop North End 2 Kendal Town 1

FACTS

Games: 415

Goals:  1411

Grounds: 198

Games since a 0-0: 28

Milestone: Goal 1400 scored (officially) by Brad Carsley of Bamber Bridge. Big nod goes to Will Kitchen in the Kendal Town goal for somehow making sure it went over the line.

SOUNDTRACK

Damned Damned Damned – The Damned

The View from the Afternoon

And you can pour your heart out.
Around three o’ clock

GAME OF THE WEEK

Trafford 0 Prescot Cables 2

The Evo-Stik North

Attendance: 324

Gate: £8

Programme: £2

On a cold evening in February I saw these two teams play at Prescot. Cables ran out 2-0 winners, one of those goals being from the 12 yard spot. Who says lightning does not strike twice.

A short walk from where I live, Shawe View or the First Point Shawe View Stadium to give it its current moniker. On such a beautiful day, it felt like the opening day of the season in shirt sleeves, I was soon inside and making my way round to the far side near the railway.

A picturesque ground with greenery all around, Trafford’s home is always a pleasure to visit, something I have now done 18 times. To the east the end behind the goal has a small covered terrace, opposite is open with grass banking, that features as part of the main stand end too. It is at the main stand side that you find everything you need at the club. Bar, food hut, covered seating, changing rooms, open terracing, grass banking, dugouts, changing rooms, you get the picture, there is even a press box where the PA guy sits. Opposite this, is another covered seating area along with open standing.

Neither team has enjoyed the start to their season, the hosts have yet to win a game, though to be fair, before today the only side to beat them in the league were the high flying South Shields. Cables have had a slightly better time in the league, but had suffered the ignominy of conceding 8 in the cup against a team from a lower division.

I do not think I am being unkind to either side when I say the opening 45 minutes was not a classic. Trafford struggled to get any kind of game going, whilst Cables toiled too despite being slightly the better of the two sides. In fact, when I tell you the best bit was when Cables forwards Dean and Southworth had to swap shirts, I think you get the picture. Not sure why it was spotted after 10 minutes.

The second half was better, though not for the home fans. Prescot took the lead 5 minutes after the break, a delightful through ball by Faux found Southworth (I think!) who was through on goal and he finished with ease past Shenton in the home goal.

One criticism that cannot be levelled at Trafford is lack of commitment, the only problem though is lack of confidence to go with it. Whilst they huffed and puffed to try and get back in the game, the threat was always at the other end. That was until the 55th minute when the hosts won a penalty. For the second home game in a row they did not take the opportunity, up stepped Williams, his effort was brilliantly saved by Burgess.

Cables were in control the game was over, that was until they brought on Owolabi with less than 10 minutes to go. His running caused Trafford problems at the back and with 2 minutes remaining he won a penalty, though he clearly handled in the build-up. Wynne, who had been impressive all afternoon converted, 2-0 was not a scoreline that flattered.

I am not sure what the answer is, but Trafford need something to add that sparkle, at the moment the team seems flat. The players they have are better than this performance and their league position, I am sure they will soon be heading up the league.

ADDED ON

Unlike most people, Bank Holiday Monday was a write-off for me, work beckoned and unfortunately, I could not say no. Unimpressed.

Tuesday, there was only one game locally worthy of a visit, City of Liverpool FC v Charnock Richard, both scoring goals for fun, surely it had to be a feisty one. For an hour it was a cracker. The ‘Purps’ bossed it, led 2-0, missed a penalty as both teams were reduced to 10 men. A quick nod to Charnock’s Schofield who scored a thumping own goal, sorry lad but it was a belter.

The last 30 minutes just drifted away, the only real sour note though were the antics of CoL’s number 9, McDonald. His play acting bordered on farcical at times and was tiring. Daft thing is, he is a bloody good footballer when he isn’t rolling around.

The following night and it was Cheadle Town hosting Prestwich Heys, another feisty one, without all the histrionics of Mr McDonald, Heys deserved winners, leading 3-0 at half-time, they should have been out of sight. Town gave it a go in the second half but it was all a little too late, Heys running out 4-2 winners. A cracker none the less. Second half spent in part in the company of Ian Williams, always a pleasure sir. The final nod goes to the liner of the stand side, loved the first half chatter.

GAMES

Tue: City of Liverpool FC 2 Charnock Richard 0

Wed: Cheadle Town 2 Prestwich Heys 4

Sat: Trafford 0 Prescot Cables 2

FACTS

Games: 411

Goals:  1395

Grounds: 197

Games since a 0-0: 24

SOUNDTRACK

Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not – Arctic Monkeys

Mysterious Ways

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

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