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GAME OF THE WEEK

Bristol Manor Farm 1 Swindon Supermarine 1

The Evo-Stik Southern League Division One West

Attendance: 173

Gate: £8

Programme: £2

As I set off for Bristol nearly 14 hours before I would see home again a fair plan of what was about to pan out had formed in my mind. A peaceful train journey, decent match (hopefully), return peaceful trip and write a blog called ‘Sexy MF’. No. None of it worked out like I thought.

I have abandoned trains in the Manchester area as much as possible, so I headed off into Manchester on the 256 bus and was soon sat on my train to Birmingham New Street, which was absolutely rammed. Changing at New Street, with a little over 10 minutes to spare, I had to get negotiate the ticket barriers with a barcode that didn’t work 4 times, yes 4 times just to move from one platform to another, finally made it to be told it had changed platform, luckily no ticket barrier this time and on to a train full of men off to Cheltenham races.

At least there was a bit of peace once we got past the Gloucestershire spa town, quick change at Bristol and I was soon jumping off at Sea Mills. Bristol Manor Farm’s home is a short walk from the station over the River Trym where it meets the Avon. As you walk to ‘The Creek’ you can see the gem of a ground that awaits.

Entering behind the North goal you are at the highest point of the ground which drops away to the far right hand corner, got to love a sloping pitch. There is open standing behind both goals, to the north you are above the pitch, at the opposite end your feet are below pitch level. To your right upon entering is the River Avon Side, with train track inbetween, this is where the dugouts are and a small covered stand that you enter at the rear of the away bench, love it. Opposite is the Main Stand, where you find the clubhouse, worth a visit, Tea Bar, again worth a visit, three covered areas, yes three. A seated area with standing at the back of it, and two standing only areas.

There are steps down to the pitch from the clubhouse for the players and if you are as lucky as I was, this is where you will find Kevin. Tannoy announcer and pre-match (and h-t) music guy. So many top tunes played. It was through talking to Kevin that I realised I had to change the title of my blog to a The Fall song. Kevin thanks, for your time and inspiration, Manor Farm you have a gem of a man there.

This was a game of two halves, the rule being, kick down the slope you own the ball. To start with it was Supermarine’s turn, from the kick-off to the half-time whistle they were on top, the fact it took them 20 minutes to take the lead was a surprise. The attacks came in waves, winger Selman was a constant thorn in the home defence and was caught late with a couple of tackles, but as all good wingers do, he just dusted himself down and got back on the ball.

Penalty. Supermarine took the lead in controversial circumstances. The visitors had a corner on the left, as the ball came into the box, a shot was saved by Clark in the home goal, the rebound hammered at goal by Gray, now the shot was certainly blocked by Mills, but the liner flagged that he had done it with his arm(s), I am unsure. But if he did he is wasted. To have reactions that fast somebody somewhere must be able to make use of them. he was 3 or 4 yards away from the thumping effort. Anyway it was given. Up stepped Hooper, he finished with ease, Clark was sent the wrong way.

Until the break, Supermarine continued to attack and continued to fire in shots on goal, but they all seemed to be straight at Clark or wildly off target, the half-time whistle must have come as a welcome sound to the home side.

H-T. Bristol Manor Farm 0 Swindon Supermarine 1

Following the restart, the Supermarine Ultras suddenly had massive heads, the balance of play switched and whatever had been said in the home changing room was soon working. The River Trym magnet was doing its magic again.

Flicked Header. On the hour Farm won a free-kick on the left, whipped in by skipper Metters, it was met by the perfectly timed run of Stamp, his header flew past Hill in the visitors goal, 1-1, game on.

The last half hour was a push for a winner, the hosts had the majority of the ball and were working hard at creating chances, but the opposition defence were holding firm, at the top of the hill, Supermarine were breaking away and causing trouble for the Farm defence.

Unfortunately, at times the commitment and effort on both sides boiled over and tempers flared, which took away from what was a good battle between two evenly matched teams. Though my overall memory will be of a good game, where the mysterious River Trym has an impact on who controls the game, I just need to find if the tide was in or out?

F-T. Bristol Manor Farm 1 Swindon Supermarine 1

The return train journey was interrupted in the Midlands by their version of the Gallaghers from Shameless. Until they got off at Wolverhampton they ran riot, the parents? Just sat and ignored it all. Ah well.

I will be back at The Creek. Soon.

ADDED ON

Two games, two 2-0 wins.

Over to Ossett on Tuesday, delicious chippy at Park Square Fisheries, finally on to Ingfield on a cold evening. Town controlled the game from start to finish, took a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes through Pembleton and did not look like they would relinquish this grip on the game.

Up until this evening, my favourite goal had been a blast into an open goal from about 3 inches out, all was to change. As a running battle between Town’s Nelthorpe and United’s skipper Hollett threatened to erupt into something more a high looping cross came into the box, the former challenged for the ball with substitute Baxendale, the forward won and sent an easy to deal with high looping header towards the goal and into the arms of Roberts in the United goal. Only the keeper tripped/slipped/crumbled into the back of the net as he reached the place where the ball was going to land into his arms. The ball looped into the empty net. Oh yes, it landed onto Roberts as he was still in a crumpled heap in the back of the net. Priceless. I have a new favourite goal.

Onto Friday and another delicious pre-match chippy. Just up the road from the Widnes Stadium is Paul’s Chippy. Well worth a visit and a big reason as to why I have been to Widnes so often.

Third versus second in the league, a derby of sorts, both looking at Linnets in the distance, even though we are still in January this very much looks like a race for runners-up. This leg of the race was won by Widnes at a canter. Lomax opened the scoring around the 5 minutes mark with a finish from inside the box and player-(joint) manager Towey scored emphatically after the break again around the 5 minutes point.

Widnes moved into third, Town’s season looks like it could be falling apart a bit. I couldn’t help but wonder if a smile or two was raised in the green and yellow half of the town on the other side of the River Mersey.

GAMES

Tue: Ossett Town 2 Skelmersdale United 0

Fri: Widnes 2 Runcorn Town 0

Sat: Bristol Manor Farm 1 Swindon Supermarine 1

FACTS

Games: 463

Goals:  1577

Grounds: 218

Games since a 0-0: 75

Milestone: 200th Home Win (Widnes victory on Friday); 75th game without a 0-0 (Saturday)

Performance of the Week: Kevin O’Donohue. Top class tunes, great bloke. Thanks Kev.

Random Fact: The penalty for Swindon Supermarine was the 142nd I have seen awarded and the 96th I have seen converted.

SOUNDTRACK

New Facts Emerge – The Fall

Pressure

Gotta keep it up, keep it up
Keep up the pressure

GAME OF THE WEEK

Montrose 1 Queen of the South 3 aet (1-1 after 90 minutes)

IRN-BRU Cup Round 3

Attendance: 534

Gate: £15

Programme: £2

Since the news filtered through in the Bobbins household that my much better half (think …..) was off to London for the weekend with her mother I was on my laptop planning and plotting. First thoughts were ‘bugger it is international weekend’, before I noticed it was IRN-BRU cup weekend. Where could I get to that was different for me. Only one stood out. Montrose v Queen of the South.

Everything booked, I was to Angus.

In My I went to Dundee United, the train journey to Tayside is a beautiful journey, the added part is every bit as spectacular. I also now need to get to Arbroath, looks an amazing ground. Alighting with amazing views over Montrose Basin, I made my way to The Little Mermaid chippy for an excellent lunch of fish and chips.

Off to Links Park, the home of the Gable Endies and a ground that is close to the 5th oldest golf course in the world, see educational as well as entertainment! Entry is behind the goal to the west. Opposite and to the North is the open standing area, a Main Stand to the south is a modern covered seating structure, my favourite part of the ground is the West Stand. terracing under cover with a great little extra bit in the corner.

One thing I love about this competition, the sides come out, none of that phoney handshake malarkey and we kick-off. No messing about, game underway. Get on with it. Brilliant.

Once underway it was difficult to spot which side was a couple of divisions above the other, which is all credit to Montrose. They turned up and gave it everything. Missing a golden chance early on when McLaren could not turn a rebound home, they continued to have a go, meanwhile the Doonhamers started to gain a foothold with Dobbie of Swansea City and Blackpool fame causing trouble.

Midway through the half the hosts took the lead, Masson scoring with a low effort from just inside the box. As the visitors gained more of a foothold, Fleming was called into making a point blank save and was saved by his crossbar not long before the half ended.

Due to an injury Dykes came on for Queen of the South at the restart, his performance raised the question as to why he hadn’t started. Lively, causing the opposition trouble and testing Fleming. The pressure was being cranked up and up as the half went on. The home fans getting nervy especially as McFadden, who would 24 hours later be a pundit in the Sky Sports studio for the Scotland match, came on and added even more class.

With the clock ticking towards 89 minutes the pressure told as the ball sat up nicely for Dobbie, his finish showed he had not lost his touch, great finish from 20 yards, Fleming had no chance.

So, an extra 30 minutes. There are times when you are happy with this, times when you are not. This was certainly the former.

Both sides went close in the first 15 minutes, the woodwork saving the visitors, the keeper denying them. The second period of extra-time belonged to Queen of the South as experience and fitness told. Dykes latched on to a through ball rounded the impressive Fleming and finished, before right at the death Dobbie got his second from a seemingly impossible angle. 3-1 the final score. Harsh on Montrose that.

Back to the train station and back to Glasgow. Could do with some of that girder strength they have in IRN-BRU to get me through the journey, or I could just have a kip. I picked the zzzzz’s.

ADDED ON

I have started to take the father-in-law on a tour of some of the best (and worst) grounds locally and after waxing lyrical about Winsford United’s home the plan was made to visit when Runcorn Town were the opponents on Monday night.

In all my years of being at football, many of them as a fan, but now some 400+ games as a neutral I have never seen such an awful refereeing performance. His assistant on the main stand side was not much better. To say they favoured the league leaders would be an under statement. They got the vast majority of decisions, were let off with numerous indiscretions, the main culprit being Joseph Holt. He could have been booked 8 times that I can remember, his skipper was not too far behind, neither shown a single caution, in fact I cannot think of a team-mate getting one either. Very disappointing behaviour, shocking officiating. Oh yes, they won 4-2.

Wednesday it was up a few levels to the National League and a second trip to Prenton Park and Tranmere Rovers v Leyton Orient. As Football League clubs continue to drift down slowly, games like this become more of a norm in non-league.

Raining all evening, it was the O’s who took the lead through Harrold midway through the opening 45, only for Cook to equalise minutes later sliding home a loose ball into an unguarded net. Following the half-time break the game was pretty much all one way, and with 20 minutes left it was no surprise when Rovers took the lead, Norwood nodding home from close range. 3 points to Tranmere, myself and Mr Wilks back up the M56.

So. On to Scotland. Friday off work. Early train north despite Northern Rail’s best efforts to stop me getting to Warrington, Virgin rounded off a miserable trip with very poor service on the train. Never mind, I was in Glasgow, in my hotel and soon looking to head west for Dumbarton.

Train from Queen Street took little time in getting to Dumbarton East and the ground is little more than a 5 minutes walk from there. If in doubt head for the bloody big hill. It’s right next to that. My 201st ground and a little bit of weird one. In the shadow of Dumbarton Rock with the castle on top you feel it should be a great setting. Sadly the one and only stand faces away from the view. Three sides just have a fence around them, you feel as though the club have missed a trick with the design and layout.

Stranraer came to have a go at their hosts, but it was the Sons game from the off really, after a couple of close shaves for the visitors, Barr did well to control a ball in the area and finish from close range. An injury to the hosts keeper led to a substitution on the half hour and the lead was preserved with ease to the break.

Stranraer gave it a good go after the break but they were missing that clear cut chance, with 25 minutes left Stewart powered in a header for Dumbarton’s second and the tie was over. Or was it? Still Stranraer came forward, chances started to come more often but they couldn’t take them. That was until with virtually the last kick off the match when substitute Okoh fired in from inside a crowded box.

I headed back off into the drizzling night air and my return to Glasgow City Centre.

GAMES

Mon: Winsford United 2 Runcorn Town 4

Wed: Tranmere Rovers 2 Leyton Orient 1

Fri: Dumbarton 2 Stranraer 0

Sat: Montrose 1 Queen of the South 3 (aet)

FACTS

Games: 424

Goals:  1446

Grounds: 202

Games since a 0-0: 37

Milestone: 100th goal of the season – Dykes (Queen of the South)

SOUNDTRACK

Connected – Stereo MCs

Still Feeling Blue

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

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