Godmanchester Rovers 1 Ipswich Wanderers 1

Saturday 28th November 2009
Godmanchester Rovers 1 Ipswich Wanderers 1
Ridgeons Football League Division 1
At: Bearscroft Lane
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Admission: £4 including 28 page programme
Attendance: 40
Weather: cold, dry
Duration: first half: 45:27; second half: 48:05

Over the past few weeks, I have been creating ‘backdated’ i-want-football blogs featuring the games I saw in 1998, 1999 and 2000. One thing I noticed was this: it had been nine years since I last saw a game at an Eastern Counties League ground, a competition back them called the Jewson League. That game was an FA Vase tie at Mildenhall Town in December 2000 and my last league game in the ECL was at Warboys Town in February 1999.

So, thinking about today’s destination when The Football Traveller arrived earlier in the week, I warmed to the idea of an Eastern Counties League game. To me, there seemed no better place to reacquaint myself with the competition now known as the Ridgeons Football League than Godmanchester Rovers, the most westerly of the 41 members clubs and nearest to home.

Godmanchester Rovers, or ‘Goddy’ as they are referred to as, joined the Eastern Counties League in 2002/03 and the current campaign is their seventh in Division 1. Their Bearscroft Lane ground was located in a rural setting around 3/4 mile south of A14 junction 24 (A1198 towards Royston). The left-hand turn into the lane, marked by a sign for ‘Bearscroft Farm’ came as the road started to bend 100 yards after a right turn to ‘Godmanchester Roman Way Industrial Estate. I must confess to not spotting it first time round in my keenness to arrive and ended up several hundred yards further down the road before realising my error.

A signed marked the entrance down the lane and once inside the ground, the fully railed-off pitch (orientated south-west–north-east) ran widthways to the left and parallel with the lane. Parking was behind the near goal and all the facilities were down the near touchline. Two sky blue painted building housed the bar and changing rooms, and a further portacabin housed the snack bar. A new Arena stand containing 50 blue individual tip-up seats stood around the halfway line with a further area of covered standing stretching towards the edge of the far penalty area. Opposite new newly-built dugouts with a second pitch behind and running parallel with the main pitch.

Without a league win for almost two months, Godmanchester (in 13th position with 15 points from 14 games) had a great opportunity to end this run against second-from-bottom Ipswich and record a ‘double’ in the process. The visitors (nine points from 14 games) had only won one league game since the end of August and that was against bottom club Fakenham without a point all season.

The fixtures/results list in the programme (free with admission) showed a quirk in this season’s FA Cup and FA Vase draw which had Godmanchester play Rothwell Corinthians four times in ten days – both ties went to a replay.

After walking around the ground, I got chatting to one of the visiting Ipswich committee men who worked out I was indeed a ‘groundhopper’. The chap, Roger Wosahlo, was intrigued I’d travelled 111 miles to watch the game and introduced me the Secretary who recalled visiting my old club Stafford Rangers with Stevenage Borough. I puzzled the committee man by amending the teamsheet in my notes in green. Was that some eccentricity? No, simply the colour of the pen that came out of my pocket to mark up the teams in the bar, which I copied down off an impressive teamsheet complete with impressive handwriting.

To answer the question I was posed, my visit to Ipswich Wanderers was on Saturday 14th March 1998 when they defeated Mildenhall Town 3-0 in a Jewson League Division 1 game.

In the bar, we got chatting to a reporter who was covering the game from BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, and then a young reporter with the surname Stafford who was reporting for the visitors.

Before kick-off, teams were announced over the tannoy – unfortunately an old teamsheet was read out providing the line-ups from a game played earlier in the season.

Ipswich Wanderers (wearing yellow shirts, yellow shorts and turquoise green socks) got the game underway attacking the car park end in the first half. And the visitors created the first attempt on goal as James Buckle fired straight at Goddy keeper Connor Jordan from just outside the area.

Visiting keeper Gary Hammond did well to thwart James Hull who had been put clear inside the area but could do nothing to prevent Godmanchester (in sky blue shirts, navy blue shorts and socks) from taking an 12th minute lead. John Brierly swept the ball out to the right to Steve Hurst who found space to whip in a cross which Craig Rumens turned into his own net at the near post under pressure from James Hall.

I opted to watch the first half from under the cover next to the stand and, as it turned out, rather foolishly started to dream of a large goal haul by the home side as they started to create chances.

Lee Boon fed Adam King who forced a save out of Hammond at the expense of a corner and Boon hit a deflected shot into the arms of the keeper. Just after the half-hour mark, Hurst sent a 35-yard free-kick flashing past a five-man wall and the left-hand post.

But Ipswich started to pose problems without really stretching the home defence, apart from winning a couple of corners, until Maurice Fike fired across the face of goal.

The visitors almost equalised five minutes before the break. Bird exchanged a one-two with Fike inside the area and fired a low angled shot towards the far left post. Lee Broomfield, a tall striker with resembling Jesus (appropriate as the home side had ‘God’ in their name), got on the end and fired over from just a few yards out.

Buckle was booked in the 42nd minute for a foul on King and James Hall sent the resulting free-kick over the bar.

I retreated to the Snack Bar at the interval for a tea and chips. For meat eaters there was certainly a good menu and burgers seemed to be popular. The two ladies behind the counter, both wearing sky blue ‘GRFC COMMITTEE’ tops, were very friendly and one of them kindly popped down to the bar to get me a lapel badge which simply just had the word ‘Goddy ‘ on it.

Half-time soon ended and I decided to watch the second half from the far side in the half now being attacked by Goddy. My view had changed from a rural one to one of the orange lights of Huntingdon and the sounds of the A14, which I must confess to have not noticed during the first half.

Godmanchester were inches away from doubling their lead in the 54th minute. A long clearance downfield by Jordan fell to James Hall, just outside the area, who went for goal and agonisingly saw his shot hit the left-hand post having beaten the diving Gary Hammond.

James Hall went close again but this time it was the boot of Gary Hammond that stopped his shot.

Just before the hour mark, Wanderers appealed for a penalty when Broomfield went down but all they got from the young referee, who incidentally gave a superb performance, was a corner.

In the 61st minute, Scott Welton became the second player to be booked. As the last defender, he caught Brierly on the edge of the Ipswich area and only stayed on the field because the flag had been raised for offside and the referee had blown his whistle.

Brierly got forward again and this time fired just wide from 20 yards out while at the other end Bloomfield then forced a good diving save out of Jordan.

Just like last week’s game at Coton Green, the second half was far better than the first.

Briely picked up a booking in the 73rd minute for a late challenge on Welton.

Martin Ray, the Goddy skipper, encouraged his side with a shout of “clean sheet, keep it tight”. But guess what happened shortly after in the 76th minute? Ipswich equalised with a well struck 20-yarder from James Hall that flew into the bottom right corner.

Before the game resumed Godmanchester replaced Kamau with Steve Thompson. Ipswich soon made a change in the 79th minute with Jamie Tynan coming on for Sarvio Moore.

Ipswich kept pressing forward and almost took the lead. Fike dribbled through the entire Goddy defence and I thought he was going to score. But Jordan did enough to block the shot and Leon Parnell, following-up, couldn’t keep the ball down from the rebound. A lucky escape for the home side.

Gary Hammond also excelled to turn round a curling shot from Boon that looked to be heading for the far right corner of the net.

Goddy made a second change in the 86th minute – Jonny Hall replaced Chris Hugill – as they looked for the winner and they nearly got it two minutes later. Boon flicked the ball into the path of James Hall inside the area who just needed to keep his shot down but it ended up over the bar.

After the final whistle, while the Ipswich players left for the changing rooms no doubt satisfied with a point, the home side held an ‘inquest’ on the field which didn’t seen too critical or heated.

Before hitting the A14, I took a detour into the town, parked up and had a look at Godmanchester’s famous landmark, the Chinese Bridge.

Godmanchester Rovers (sky blue / navy blue / navy blue): 1. Connor Jordan, 2. Steve Hurst, 3. John Brierly, 4. Darren Ray, 5. Rob Stamper, 6. Martin Ray (capt), 7. Adam King, 8. Chris Hugill, 9. Lee Boon, 10. James Hall, 11. Josh Kamau. Subs: 12. Steve Thompson (for Kamau, 77), 14. Lee Hazell (not used), 15. Jonny Hall (for Hugill, 86), 16. Stuart McKay (not used).

Ipswich Wanderers (yellow / yellow / turquoise green): 1. Gary Hammond, 2. Scott Welton, 3. Ben Hammond, 4. Leon Parnell, 5. Ben Cole, 6. Craig Rumens, 7. Maurice Fike, 8. James Buckle (capt), 9. Lee Broomfield, 10. Rob Bird, 11. Sarvio Moore. Subs: 12. Jamie Tynan (for Moore, 79), 14. Steve Bucks (not used), 15. Robert Forbes (not used).

Referee: Chris Pollard.
Assistants: I George and A Warburton.

1-0 Craig Rumens (12 og)
1-1 Rob Bird (76)

Coton Green 1 Mile Oak Rovers & Youth 0

Saturday 21st November 2009
Coton Green 1 Mile Oak Rovers & Youth 0
Midland Combination Division 1
At: New Mill Lane
Kick-off: 2-00 pm
Admission: £1; Programme: £1 (20 pages)
Attendance: 15 (headcount)
Weather: wet and windy
Duration: first half: 45:00; second half: 48:17

It had to be a local game this afternoon, preferably with a 2-00 pm kick-off, as I’d got relatives visiting from Yorkshire to see. This fixture stood out as one with a round trip of just 50 miles and also a local derby between two teams based just 1.5 miles apart. I also thought that if last Saturday’s game was on despite the rain then one would be as well.

The scenario seemed appropriate for a wet and windy November afternoon, and this trip to Coton Green turned out to be just what I was looking for, with a programme, lapel badge and a roof over my head during the game. And the match wasn’t a bad one either.

This season, following relegation from Midland Combination Premier Division to Division 1 after one season in the top flight, Coton Green’s first team are back playing at New Mill Lane. Last season they shared at Brereton Social and I saw them defeat Loughborough University 4-3 in a midweek game 14 months ago.

I approached via the A5 from Lichfield and took the A453 exit at the bottom of the hill towards Sutton Coldfield (also signed Mile Oak, Hospital and Fazeley). At the lights by the Mercedes Benz, I turned left, again following ‘H’ along a straight road to the roundabout in Fazeley. I turned right and New Mill Lane was 300 yards on the left after the ‘Drayton Bassett’ sign and just before the 40 mph zone. The ground was at the end of the lane which, for most of the way, ran parallel with a stream. But… I must confess difficulties in initially spotting the turn into New Mill Lane.

There were two pitches, both running lengthways (and orientated west–west) and fully railed off with dugouts. In between the two pitches on the left was the impressive clubhouse and changing room building, officially opened on 7th August 2005 by then Tamworth FC manager Mark Cooper. The nearest pitch next to the car park was the main one and used for today’s game. On halfway down the right-hand side was an area of cover opposite the two dugouts. Also down the left-hand side was a bench dedicated ‘in loving memory of Richard Davis 21st May 1968 to 26th November 2008’. Hard standing ran from the dugouts round the far goal and back to the stand.

Both sides went into the game in the lower half of the table with just four wins between then from a combined total of 28 league games. Coton Green stood in 13th position in the 17-team division with 10 points from 13 games. Mile Oak were one off the bottom with four points and their solitary league win came three weeks ago when they won 5-4 at Newhall United. Confidently Coton Green registered their last league win on the same day, defeating West Midlands Police 4-0 at home.

Before the game, I enquired about programmes in the clubroom and an official in there suggested they would be brought round, which they were, and this official certainly made sure everyone had the opportunity to purchase a copy. I also noted down the team line-ups over a cup of tea in a proper mug. Refreshments were available inside the clubroom and served by two very efficient and polite teenagers.

I made my way round to the stand, like the majority of the crowd. Teams stayed as they were after the toss and Mile Oak (wearing gold shirts, blue shorts and socks) got the game underway attacking the clubhouse end, or left to right in relation to my vantage point.

News came through of a goal at Anfield, “Liverpool 1-0 up, Skrtel”, just before Mile Oak won an early corner. Swung in by Sean Keith, it caused problems for Coton keeper Steve Tonks and was the ball was partially cleared to Dale Lynch who drilled a low shot just wide. “Bad luck, Dale,” comments one Mile Oak fan.

It has been dark and windy since my arrival and the rain which began shortly before kick-off started to get a bit heavier, fortunately slanting across the pitch from behind the stand. The wind grew stronger and ever more autumn leaves landed on the playing surface.

Mile Oak striker Darren Alder picked up a knock early on and was replaced in the 11th minute by Mark Draycott who played up front alongside Kieran Pitkan.

A rather bizarre incident occurred midway through the first half. A spectator drove into the ground, parked up and walked to the stand where he was asked to pay his £1 admission charge. The man refused, walked back to his car and promptly drove off!

Chances were scare until Coton Green (wearing all white) went close to a goal in the 34th minute. Ross Schuck crossed deep for the far post from the right and the ball went out of a corner when both Andy Ross and defender Sean Keith went for it at the far post. Swung in from the left, Steve Hopgood headed Schuck’s corner off the line by and a follow-up shot by Chris Francis was cleared in front of goal by Dan Hales. Defenders got in the way of two further shots, much to the relief of the Mile Oak fans stood in the stand.

The home side had another opportunity to take the lead in the 42nd minute. Scott Lipton played an accurate diagonal ball forward from the left to the far post. It fell to “man at the back” Schuck who hit a first-time volley just wide.

The referee brought the first half to a close right on the 45-minute mark with the score still goalless and we all headed for the clubroom where another cup of tea awaited. I spotted a club shop price list pinned up on the wall and so picked up a pin badge.

I was back to the stand for the start of the second half and both sides created a chance within a couple of minutes of the resumption. Steve Wagstaffe fired straight at Guttery from 20 yards while Keith delivered a threatening free-kick across the face of the Coton goal from the left but no-one from Mile Oak could apply the finishing touch.

I got chatting to a man wearing a bright blue fleece and he turned out to be a Tamworth fan. He didn’t normally travel away so chose this short trip to New Mill Lane rather than a much longer one to Ebbsfleet where the Lambs were playing today. Of course, Tamworth have the impressive Danny Alcock in goal who used to play for my old team Stafford Rangers.

Back to the action and Coton were denied a goal by an excellent save from Guttery. The diving keeper stretched out a right hand to parry a well struck shot from the lively Schuck that looked destined for the net.

With the home side in the ascendency, Mile Oak skipper Lee Salt called for more positive defending. He was again concerned when Schuck played the ball into the area towards Francis who couldn’t take advantage.

Mile Oak made their second change in the 66th minute with Daniel McGoing replacing Lynch.

Coton Green broke the deadlock in the 69th minute with what proved to be the winner. Scott Lipton crossed from the left for Barton to volley into the roof of the net from 10 yards out. “Get your heads up,” urged the Mile Oak captain as plenty of time remained for his side to equalise.

The visitors did get that chance within a couple of minutes. Chris Pemberton crossed a cleared corner deep to the far post where Dexter Walker sent a free header over the bar.

In the 76th minute, Coton Green made a double change with Simon Latchford and Steve Pike replacing Jamie Cartwright and Barton.

My friend the Tamworth fan received a text message with good news. His side had taken the lead at Ebbsfleet with Prichard the scorer.

Wagstaffe required lengthy treatment for what looked like a shin injury before hobbling off supported by the trainer. He was replaced in the 84th minute by Lee Barnes.

With time running out, Mile Oak won a corner and sent the big men up from the back. Pemberton swung the corner dangerously into the six-yard box and the ball was scrambled clear. This was just about Pemberton’s last contribution as Shaw Casey came on for the wide midfielder in the 89th minute.

“How long?” enquired one player of the referee. “Four minutes,” came the reply and the match official duly blew for full-time four minutes and a few seconds later.

There were handshakes all round at the end of a good natured game. Unusually it had been a local derby without any bookings and there was little possibility of any either.

Coton Green (white/white/white): 1. Steve Tonks, 2. Steve Roberts, 3. Scott Lipton, 4. Jamie Cartwright (capt), 5. Evan Ross, 6. Jamie Barnes, 7. Ross Schuck, 8. Steve Wagstaffe, 9. Dale Barton, 10. Chris Francis, 11. Andy Ross. Subs: 12. Simon Latchford (for Cartwright, 76), 14. Lee Barnes (for Wagstaffe, 84), 15. Steve Pike (for Barton, 76), 16. Darren Coles.

Mile Oak Rovers & Youth (gold/blue/blue): 1. Dave Guttery, 2. Steve Hopgood, 3. Sam Jones, 4. Dan Hales, 5. Dexter Walker, 6. Lee Salt (capt), 7. Sean Keith, 8. Dale Lynch, 9. Kieran Pitkan, 10. Darren Alder, 11. Chris Pemberton. Subs: 12. Mark Draycott (for Alder, 11), 14. Shaw Casey (for Pemberton, 89), 15. Joe Bannister, 16. Daniel McGoing (for Lynch, 66), 17. Ainsley Henderson.

Referee: Kev Wright.
Assistants: Ian Murphy and Kurt Bartlett.

1-0 Dale Barton (69)

Linby Colliery Welfare 1 Clifton 3

Saturday 14th November 2009
Linby Colliery Welfare 1 Clifton 3
precision training Nottinghamshire Senior League
At: Church Lane
Kick-off: 2-00 pm
Admission: none; Programme: £1 (44 pages)
Attendance: 45 (headcount)
Weather: cloudy with sunny spells and showers
Duration: first-half: 46:45; second-half: 50:37

Wet and windy weather on Thursday and yesterday threatened to spoil today’s action – and it did in many parts of the country. It was sunny at home this morning, so I had everything crossed that my first choice match would survive the deluge.

After studying this week’s Football Traveller magazine, I opted to visit a ground I’d previously passed during March’s hop on my way from Bulwell Town to Kirkby Town. I was impressed with what I saw at Linby Colliery Welfare so opted to head for their home Notts Senior League game with second-placed Clifton.

Linby are one of just a few clubs in the league to produce programmes and have covered standing at their ground.

Setting off early and getting there early around 1-45 pm, I was pleased to time my arrival with that of the Clifton squad. The Linby squad were also assembling so no need to check if the game was on and, in fact, the pitch didn’t feel that damp when I walked round the pitch.

As the programme states, Linby moved to the current home in 1985 after vacating their famous Gatehouse ground which attracted a crowd of 6850 for the visit of Gillingham for an FA Cup First Round tie back in November 1950. Sadly the ground was lost after the mine closed.

The current Linby CW ground, overlooked by St Michael’s Church, proved straight-forward to find down Church Lane. I approached from the northern end of the A611 Hucknall bypass then followed signs for Linby. Just after crossing the railway level crossing, it was left at the roundabout that followed, signed B6011 to Linby and Papplewick, then first right by the church and white flag pole into Church Lane. The ground entrance was 200 yards on the right by the signs for the Bailiwicks Court development.

In through the gates and immediately into car park, the pitch (orientated south-west–north-east) ran lengthways on the top side of a large field which previously was home to Linby CW Cricket Club, hence the size. On the near end were separate changing rooms for home and away as well as the cricket pavilion. Down the right-hand touchline of the fully roped-off pitch was an old stand from bygone years from which the view was obscured by the away team dugout. Opposite, a more modern area of cover, next to the home dugout, had so such viewing obstructions. A white rail extended from in front of the cover towards the near end along a small additional area of uncovered hand standing.

I headed for the pavilion and inside found a TARDIS-like room including a tea bar. I picked up a programme (£1) and lapel badge (£3), as well as those all important teamsheets from the respective club secretaries. There was also a display titled ‘Linby in National Mag!’ from when the club were featured a couple of years ago in Groundtatstic. I got chatting to the father of one of the Clifton players and learned about the strength of the Notts Senior League this season; he provided good company over a cup of tea and I stood next to him and his cycling friend during the game as well.

Linby in seventh place with 17 points from 13 games, have had a good run of late through a three-match unbeaten run came to an end with a 4-1 defeat at Keyworth last Saturday. However, for this game they were lacking flu-hit leading scorer Julien Wright who had scored nine of Linby’s 20 league goals this season.

Second-placed Clifton (29 points from 13 games) went into the game, one point behind leaders Basford United, knowing that a win for them and anything less for the leaders would see the side reclaim top spot in the table. Unlike Linby, Clifton did have their leading scorer Michael Evans who also topped the Premier Division goalscoring chart with 13 goals.

There was no fairplay entrance, or handshakes after the teams walked the 60 or so yards from changing rooms to pitch.

I opted to stand down the left-hand side and saw Clifton (wearing all white) got the same underway defending the far end in the first half. Linby opted to make use of the wind in the first half.

Linby (wearing red shirts, black shorts and red socks) created the game’s first decent chance in the 13th minute. Hesitation in the Clifton defence allowed Ross Cheeseman’s deep left-wing cross to end up at the feet of Nick Davies, who hit a well struck shot that the diving John Marriott pushed cleared.

Dave Elson was booked three minutes later for a foul on Barry Turner, a decision that had one Linby supporter claiming “he got the ball, ref”.

It was certainly competive on the field with the referee occasionally needing to calm things down. On the half hour, Clifton’s Michael Evans fired just over the bar from 20 yards out.

Half-time came without a goal and only the odd scoring opportunity though the game was anything from dull. I adjourned to the pavilion and enjoyed my tea so much reading the Groundtastic diplay that I saw the players emerging from the changing rooms before I was ready to emerge myself.

It was only 3 pm and certainly getting darker. Cars passing by on Main Street had lights on and no doubt Church Lane would have been lit up as well had floodlights been available.

Clifton almost took the lead within a minute of the restart when Danny Johnson saw a shot cleared off the line.

The visitors maintained their strong start to the second half. Evans went for goal with a free-kick taken while the wall was being organised and Linby’s Craig Lear was alert enough to turn the ball round his right-hand post.

Linby took the lead in the 57th minute with a goal that left the Clifton defence fuming. Cheeseman’s initial shot was blocked by Marriott and the ball ran to Kyle McDermott on the right. The midfielder drilled a shot into the 6-yard box which went in via a defelction. Referee Mr Towers was sufficiently concerned by Clifton’s protests that he only confirmed the goal after confirmation from his assistant.

Evans went close again with another free-kick before Linby made a change in the 59th minute with Ash Keetley replacing Elson.

Clifton got back on level terms in the 66th minute when Evans was brought down inside the area by Jake Keetley who picked up a yellow card. Unsurprisingly, leading scorer Evans picked himself up and sent Lear the wring way from the penalty spot.

The sky started to brighten up after a rain shower but not for McDermott was booked in the 72nd minute. He required treatment after being hurt in a 50-50 challenge and received his yellow card for comments made towards the referee before limping off slowly to the sidelines.

Evans also went in the book for dissent in the 77th minute at the same time that Notts County trainee Ashley Way replaced Johnson in a straight swap on the Clifton left.

Linby had a great opportunity to regain the lead in the 80th minute. Davies did well to keep the ball in play down the right and then deliver a deep cross towards the far post where Cheeseman volleyed over.

Both sides clearly wanted to win and Clifton made a second change in the 85th minute with Alan Smithson replacing Danny Gunn. The visitors suffered a blow soon after when Michael Holtham was carried off after failing to respond to treatment on the field. He was replaced by Paul Archer in the 88th minute.

Evans hoped for another penalty when he went down inside the area and so did Linby after the ball struck Vaughan Harvey just inside the Clifton area.

I was told to look out for Way after he came on and the youngster didn’t disappoint with an spectacular finish to put Clifton in front right on the 90 minute mark. Found unmarked on the left inside the area by Mitchell’s deep cross, he hammered a rising shot that Lear couldn’t keep out despite getting a touch.

I wondered how much injury time was to come for Linby to grab an equaliser. Several minutes I though because of the goals, substitutions and the odd bit of treatments from the trainers.

Davies tried to catch out Marriott with a cross-cum-shot that was heading for the top right corner until the keeper got across to hold.

In the end there was another goal but, unfortunately for the home side, it was a third Clifton goal scored in the fifth minute of stoppage time. Mitchell planted a low angled shot wide of Lear into the far bottom left corner. The goal meant so much to the visitors as clearly seen by their celebrations in front of the stand.

There was almost a fourth Clifton goal just before the referee blew for full-time. Lear failed to hold Evans’ low shot but managed to claim the loose ball at the feet of the Way, who in any case was flagged offside.

On the way home, I continued down Church Lane to see of anything remained of the former colliery. There were houses and industrial units but alas there is no sign of it apart from an old pit wheel erected as a memorial and visible from Waterloo Road.

Linby are certainly a club that should find a high place on any football traveller's 'step 9 grounds to do' list.

Linby Colliery Welfare (red/black/red): 1. Craig Lear, 2. Darren Dickens, 3. David Hardy, 4. Dave Elson, 5. Ross Horton, 6. Pete Campbell (capt), 7. Kyle McDermott, 8. Jake Keetley, 9. Simon Martin, 10. Ross Cheeseman, 11. Nick Davies. Subs: 12. Ash Keetley (for Elson, 59), 14. Tom Walters (not used), 15. Tee Ebanks (not used), 16. Andy Corthorn (not used).

Clifton (white/white/white): 1. John Marriott, 2. Michael Bannister, 3. Russell Howard, 4. Jake Richardson, 5. Michael Holtham (capt), 6. Vaughan Harvey, 7. Karl Mitchell, 8. Danny Gunn, 9. Barry Turner, 10. Michael Evans, 11. Danny Johnson. Subs: 12. Ashley Way (for Johnson, 77), 14. Paul Archer (for Holtham, 88), 15. Matt Carver (not used), 16. Carl Spibey (not used), 17. Alan Smithson (for Gunn, 84).

Referee: Phil Towers (West Bridgford).
Assistants: Tony Watson and John Was.

1-0 Kyle McDermott (57)
1-1 Michael Evans (66 pen)
1-2 Ashley Way (90)
1-3 Karl Mitchell (90+4)

Kirby Muxloe 1 Tipton Town 1

Saturday 7th November 2009
Kirby Muxloe 1 Tipton Town 1
Aspire Midland Alliance
At: Kirby Muxloe Sports Club, Ratby Lane
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Admission: £5; Programme: £1 (20 pages)
Attendance: 63
Weather: cold, weak sunshine
Duration: first-half: 45:57; second-half: 48:35

On Wednesday evening I was parked up outside a local high school waiting for Junior ‘iwf’s orchestra practice to end, with rain lashing down and large pools of water forming on the car park tarmac. I wondered what the weekend would have in store in terms of finding a game that would survive this and further deluges.

Come today, I had a shortlist of three possible games but one of them, which would have had me meeting up with Malc the ‘On the Road’ blogger, became a none starter. Uncertainties over waterlogging as their ground was close to the River Trent, an unobtainable ground phone number and the slowness of Junior ‘iwf’ to get ready – she was spending the afternoon with her Grandad – meant a trip to Gedling Town will have to wait for another day. Gedling’s game was on and Malc saw them pull off a 3-1 win to defeat leaders Heanor Town.

So with the shortlist down to two – Coventry Copsewood or Kirby Muxloe – I plumped for the latter as their Ratby Lane ground was the only one in the Aspire Midland Alliance I hadn’t previously visited. A quick phone call en route confirmed the game was definitely on.

I can only recall only ever visiting the village of Kirby Muxloe once to see the castle a couple of years ago.

I approached Kirby Muxloe on the A47 from Hinckley and via the shiny new Earl Shilton bypass. The SatNav suggested ignoring left-hand turns towards the village and eventually I crossed over the M1. At the lights by the Co-op, I finally took a left-hand turn, signed B5380 to Kirby Muxloe and continued through the next lights to the first roundabout. It was the first exit, back over the M1 and over the next roundabout in the village, following signs to Desford and Ratby, to the next mini roundabout. The machine suggested I had arrived but the ground was 100 yards on the right towards Ratby next to the 40 mph sign.

Through the gates, the car park was straight ahead, as was the social club, with the entrance on the left. It picked up a programme (£1) at the white paybox and the pitch (orientated south-east–north-west) ran lengthways. Down the left-hand side between the near corner flag and halfway was a white painted brick-built stand containing around 100 individual blue seats in four rows as well as a press area for one reporter. A new wooden fence down that side separated the football ground from the adjoining cricket field. Dugouts were positioned down the left-hand touchline either side of and close to the halfway line. Behind the far goal was what looked like a newly-constructed area of cover.

The club official manning the paybox asked me where I’d come from and he remembered me after I told him about my blog posting from the Graham Street Prims game which was linked tofrom the Kirby Muxloe website. I promised to send a link to this report as well.

Over the tannoy a Rod Stewart CD was playing and by the time I’d finished my walk around the pitch, the Scot was still blasting out his greatest hits. Later I was reminded of this when Rod appeared on Strictly Come Dancing! The tannoy was also put to good use before kick-off to announced the line-ups – a teamsheet had been prominently displayed on the side of the paybox so full marks to Kirby for making the info so readily available.

The visitors included Nicky Campbell in their starting line-up – not the 5 Live breakfast presenter but a nippy striker who briefly played for Stafford Rangers at the start of the 2004/05 season.

Kirby Muxloe had made a solid start to their first-ever season in the Aspire Midland Alliance. They occupied 9th position in 22-team division with 21 points from 15 games, on a good run of three straight league victories including last Saturday’s 6-4 win at Alvechurch where Jamie Mason bagged four goals.

Visitors Tipton Town (26 points from 13 games) went into the game riding high towards the top of the table in third position, some 15 points behind runaway leaders Barwell with two games in hand. They were unbeaten away from home and conceded just two goals in six away league games.

I opted to stand down the left-hand side, midway between the dugouts and the near corner in the half defended by the home side in the first half. Tipton (wearing black and white striped shirts with white sleeves and a white back, black shorts and red socks) got the game underway attacking from left to right in relation to my vantage point.

The first notable chance didn’t come until the 8th minute. Jamie Mason drove the ball across the face of the Tipton goal and Stuart Verrall couldn’t get on the end at the far post.

“Kirby Muxloe, good start, keep the temp,” commented Adam Wilcox in goal for the home side and this was echoed with another “good start Kirby” from the technical area.

At this point I was trying to work out which Kirby player was being referred to as ‘cheeky’. In the distance, traffic flashed past on the M1 around 300 yards away on the other side of the cricket field.

Kirby were awarded a penalty in the 16th minute for a trip by Richard Huckfield on Mason. Danny Taylor stepped up to the spot but fired against the left-hand post, having sent Wes Cox the wrong way.

Huckfield must have been relieved and almost gave his side the lead, glancing a header just wide of the left-hand post from Nicky Pugh’s free-kick into the area.

Mason intercepted a weak back-pass and saw his resulting shot blocked by Steve Palmer at the expense of a corner.

In the 22nd minute, Kirby keeper Wilcox was booked, presumably for handling just outside his area, an offence spotted by an assistant who was some 60 yards from the incident.

Tipton enjoyed a good 10-minute spell of pressure around the half-hour mark as the home side were kept on the back foot. Kirkby couldn’t keep the ball out of their own half and, in the 35th minute, from the last of five corners in this period, Chris Morris saw a low shot blocked in front of goal by defender Richard Darlison.

In the 42nd minute, Morris cut into the area from the left and keeper Wilcox gathered up the ball. However, Morris kept going, felled Joshua Pitsillides and picked up a booking.

I’d finally worked out who ‘cheeky’ was – Kirby’s no. 5 Craig Pietrzyk.

Along with most of the crowd, I waited for the players to enter the changing rooms before joining the refreshments queue just inside the social club. ‘Pie and peas’ was a popular choice and proved too tempting for me as well, except that I ignored the pie as it was of the meat variety and just had the peas, as well as a tea.

Back outside, the ground was almost deserted and it was getting decidedly chillier – even with hot tea and peas inside me! The crowd emerged from the warmth of the social club, out came Kirby’s Stuart Verrall on his own, followed by the Tipton team, followed by the match officials and swiftly followed by the remaining Kirby players.

With the lights switched on during the interval, Kirby made a change for the second half with Mark Schulz replacing Taylor.

Tipton took the lead in the 49th minute. Huckfield got forward from the back and fired a rising 20-yard shot into the top-left corner via the outstretched hands of Wilcox who did his best to keep the ball out.

Wilcox was forced into action to turn round a long-range free-kick curled towards goal by Pugh.

I eventually opted to watch the game from the stand side, again in the half attacked by Tipton. Their red numbers were less distinct than the prominent white numbers on the back of the home side who were now attacking the social club goal furthest away from me.

After the hour mark, Kirby upped their game in a bid to grab an equaliser and Pietrzyk fired an angled shot across the face of goal. But they survived a scare when Morris fired just over the bar.

In the 72nd minute, Tipton replaced striker Morris with Nathan Jones in a straight swap up front. A minute later, Hardeep Phull came for Kirby in place of Karl Wilson.

Both sides made a further change at the same time in the 80th minute – Kirby brought on Rob Pitman for Verrall while Tipton replaced Ashley Wells with Chris Rabone.

Just 10 minutes plus stoppage time remained for Kirby to bag an equaliser and they were urged to “work hard”.

Tipton made a third change in the 84th minute with Liam Bood replacing ex-Stafford man Nicky Campbell. An enquiry from a home player to the near assistant established there were “seven plus whatever he puts on”.

Eventually Kirby levelled things up with an 87th-minute equaliser to keep their short unbeaten league run going. Mason powered home a close-range header direct from a free-kick delivered from the right bye-line outside the area. Tipton skipper Palmer was booked before the restart, presumably for something he had said out of turn.

Tipton appealed for a penalty in stoppage time when Rabone went down but the referee said declined the request.

I was pleased to have visited Kirby Muxloe FC and rounded things off at this really welcoming club by purchasing a smart lapel badge from behind the bar before setting off home.

Kirby Muxloe (yellow with yellow and blue sleeves / blue / blue): 1. Adam Wilcox, 2. Karl Wilson, 3. Richard Darlison, 4. Jamie Mason (capt), 5. Craig Pietrzyk, 6. Bryn Statham, 7. Gary Moult, 8. Danny Taylor, 9. Stuart Verrall, 10. Joshua Pitsillides, 11. James Mee. Subs: 12. Hardeep Phull (for Wilson, 73), 14. Mark Schulz (for Taylor, ht), 15. Rob Pitman (for Verrall, 80), 16. Matt Welbourne, GK. Jordan Wait.

Tipton Town (black and white stripes with white sleeves / black / red): 1. Wes Cox, 2. Eric Bowen, 3. Steve Palmer (capt), 4. Danny Bragoli, 5. Dan Parker, 6. Richard Huckfield, 7. Ryan Mosedale, 8. Ashley Wells, 9. Chris Morris, 10. Nicky Campbell, 11. Nicky Pugh. Subs: 12. Ross Brown, 14. Nathan Jones (for Morris, 72), 15. Liam Bood (for Campbell, 84), 16. Chris Rabone (for Wells, 80). GK. Matt Osbourne.

Referee: R Pettipher.
Assistants: P Riley and N McKenize.

0-1 Richard Huckfield (49)
1-1 Jamie Mason (87)