Integral Plot

Remember the cause
Don’t say because
I’ll fight to the end
Tell the truth
The energy’s gone

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GAME OF THE WEEK

Ayr United 3 Albion Rovers 2

Ladbrokes League 1

Attendance: 1,426

Gate: £16

Programme: £2

For the second time this season I watched Albion Rovers.

For the second time this season The Wee Rovers provided top class entertainment.

One look at Rovers away record in the programme has your mouth watering. Prior to this their statistics on the road were P6 W4 D1 L1 F22 A12. Not many teams can match that record, especially when sitting 7th in a 10 team league.

Their opponents, The Honest Men, are in form. Sitting top of the pile they have won their last 6 games on the bounce and unbeaten since early September.

So the scene was set and the two sides did not disappoint.

As the two sides looked to find an opening there was little difference between them until the quarter of an hour when United took the lead, a flick over the top from Shankland played in Moffat who selflessly played in Moore, he was left with the easy chance of tucking the ball home, 1-0.

Rovers came back at their hosts, and 10 minutes later it was all level, a long ball down the left wing by McLaughlin should have been dealt with by Ayr’s Higgins as keeper Hart came out to assist, unfortunately for Ayr he just did nothing, the loose ball was presented to Rovers’ Higgins, who pirouetted and curled the ball over Hart from 25 yards out and near the wing. Absolute class strike. 1-1.

United looked to get control back, but 5 minutes later Rovers should have been ahead and Higgins’, the Ayr variety,  nightmare continued, he slipped 25 yards from goal, Trouten was in on goal, surely, no! he blazed over with only Hart to beat, what a chance. Now it was Ayr’s turn to try and make the most of a defensive error as Marr got all tangled up, Moffat took the ball away from him and hit the post with his shot, Albion broke and after a flowing move Shields fired well over from a good position, what a 15 minutes this had been.

As the clock ticked towards half-time United hit the post again, Ross’ header bouncing back out of the upright with Potts beaten, and right on the whistle Hart had to get down to stop an effort from Davidson.

I was off for a pie and a hot drink.

We were just getting started.

A driving run from Fisher ensured Hart had to start the second half as he finished the first with a decent save low down. United’s substitute McGuffie went through and pulled his shot wide from a tight angle. Hart pulled off a fantastic block from a close ranger header by Marr, who injured himself in the process.

With just under 20 minutes to go we started one of the best 5 minutes of football I have ever seen. United’s Forrest was played in on goal in the left inside forward position, his effort on goal was parried by Potts and as the loose ball ran across the goal Shankland was going to tap in, United fans celebrated. Only somehow his effort was blocked on the line by McLaughlin, Rovers fans celebrated. less than a minute later a burst of pace down the right from McDaid gave him space and time to pick out a pass to Shankland who this time made sure the ball hit the back of the net, United fans celebrated. 2-1

We were going now.

A neat move down Rovers right two minutes later, Vitoria’s ball gave Shields space to pick out his pass across goal, Trouten unmarked tapped into the empty net. Rovers fans celebrated. 2-2

We were cooking with gas now.

Straight from the kick-off the hosts attacked and won a corner, taken quickly a ball was played into the box by Forrest and Higgins of the Ayr variety arrived, a flick of his head and United were back in front. They celebrated, their fans did. 3-2

And that was that folks. Absolutely brilliant.

United’s home, Somerset Park, is a gem to fans of the old grounds. Unfortunately, covered terracing behind the goal to the east is closed off, as is a fair portion of the open north terracing. This stand sweeps round to the west where it becomes covered. On the South Side is the Main Stand. What a treat this stand is, a warren underneath it, finding the toilet is a task in itself. As on Rovers fan who was trying to get from the seats to the small terracing below inquiring as to how, he received the instruction “Down the stairs”, brilliant reply, but not all that simple.

I know there has been talk over the years of United moving to a new home. Please folks, stay at Somerset Park.

I normally comment on my journey to and from the grounds. Their was an issue with overhead lines near Watford. What I don’t get, is why when they know, don’t they stop the trains at the last stations they can use and bus in-between? Then trains won’t get stuck. That’s all I am going to say as Ayr United and Albion Rovers deserve my words after a great match.

ADDED ON

Finally I made it to Stockport Town.

The mantle of the nearest ground I haven’t been to now passes to Buxton.

What a match to visit. Derby Day. The hosts took the lead in the opening five minutes as debutant Pickering somehow scrambled the ball over the line from a Dwyer cross. Both sides had a number of chances in the opening 45 minutes as myself and Mr Wilks were joined by the excellent company of Rob York and Mr i B Block. Thanks for the hospitality Rob.

In the second half everything changed on a refereeing decision. Cheadle’s Whyatt was put through on goal and he managed to toe poke the ball past Forth in the Lions goal and the pair collided. Penalty? Oh yes. Red card? Very very harsh. Looked to me like the keeper made a genuine attempt to play the ball and under the new ‘double jeopardy’ rules I am not sure a sending off was the right call. Shevington converted the spot kick.

Unfortunately, the match became a bit bad tempered from here on in, as the visitors looked to make the most of their one man advantage. Step up Dwyer. The best player on the park then scored a divine chip to give Stockport the lead with 15 minutes remaining, the winger was a constant threat to the visitors all night. With 2 minutes remaining the hosts were pegged back again as Gardiner levelled the scores. 2-2. A decent game.

After scratching the nearest ground off my list, on Wednesday, the sixth nearest went as myself and Mr Wilks headed over to Eccleshill United. After a visit to the excellent Bolton Junction Traditional chippy we made our way over to the Mitton Group Stadium. United are on form, 9 games on the bounce have been won and tonight it was Ollerton Town’s task to put a stop to it. On a freezing night they gave it their best shot and for 50 minutes were very much in the game. An opener midway through the first half when Irving somehow beat Town’s keeper Brooks to a through ball, took it round him and tapped into the empty goal.

In the 50th minute it was if Harrop had seen enough, he just took the game by the scruff of its neck, claimed it, owned it, stamped all over it and then strutted off. His first was an easy finish after a through ball. Fifteen minutes later a through ball was taken round Brooks with apparent ease and finished off. He saved his best for last though, running through the midfield with the ball like he owned them both he slammed an effort into the top corner from 25 yards. 4-0 and welcome to the Luke Harrop Show! United’s run was extended to 10 as they went to the top of the table.

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: Stockport Town 2 Cheadle Town 2

Wed: Eccleshill United 4 Ollerton Town 0

Sat: Ayr United 3 Albion Rovers 2

FACTS

Games: 447

Goals:  1520

Grounds: 212

Games since a 0-0: 60

Milestone: 60 games since my last 0-0 draw.

Performance of the Week: Albion Rovers. I had intended this to be for an individual, but when you are 7th in the league and you go to top of the table, a team who are winning every game they play and you have a damn good go at them, then you win.

Chippy of the Week: Bolton Junction Traditional Fish & Chips, Bradford.

Random Fact: I have seen 199 Clean Sheets in total, who will keep #200?

SOUNDTRACK

Scared to Dance – Skids

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

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

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