Thursday, 18 May 2017

The Abstainers

Greenalls Padgate St Oswalds  2  Crewe  1

Cheshire Football League - Premier Division

Imagine the scenario for one moment, you are the football team affiliated to a brewery, and as a result you ply your trade at their sports and social club. You progress, you make a few headlines, and then you are forced to disband because you don't drink enough!

Hard to believe isn't it? But that's the general gist of what happened to Tetley Walker Football Club. Tetley Walker Brewery was a significant employer in Warrington, and the football team that represented them at their Long Lane social facility was ambling along quite nicely in the local Warrington League.

The Facilities - With The Tetley Club To The Right
In 1994 they took the plunge and moved into the North West Counties League Second Division, where they lasted for seven seasons, finishing runners up once, and also both winning and finishing runners up the the Divisional Cup. The FA Vase also provided success with a run to the Fourth Round in 1997. Life was pretty good.

But, it all went wrong very quickly, Carlsberg Tetley Brewery (as they were now known) decided to stop them from playing at the ground, not because they didn't pay their way, but because they weren't using and contributing to the social facilities! In other words, they weren't buying the beer!

Tetley Walker Football Club folded, and what was effectively a Step 6 ground lay empty, but then along came another team to fill the void.

Padgate - But No Brewery, School Or Church To Be Seen
Greenalls Padgate St Oswalds FC is a bit of a mouthful. The Greenalls element is a link to another alcohol manufacturer in Warrington, Padgate is the area to the East of where the Tetleys Social Club lies, and St Oswalds is the name of a Catholic Church and School in the vicinity. So yes, we have a football club with a geographical base, linked to the church, a school and a brewery / distiller. I guess they don't want anyone to feel left out!

So then, competing in the Cheshire Football League are GPSO (much easier to type) and with games rapidly running out now, I decided to end my season with a visit, partly because I'd never been, but also out of curiosity in terms of what I was going to find when it came to the facilities.

Located on the North side of Warrington, not a million miles from the home of Warrington Wolves RLFC, the Tetley Social Club is on the A50 and upon arriving you soon get a feel for the size of the complex. It has a large car park, and the two leveled Social Club is a vast premise. Two funerals were taking place when I arrived and it was particularly busy, but still the public bar (members only - but no one asked) was open, and that was where I took up residence. The prices were very attractive as you would expect, and yes, they sold both Tetleys and Carlsberg.

Just prior to kick off I took a walk through the gate to the rear of the club, where the remnants of a pay booth stood. To the right of which was a small pavilion that contained dressing rooms, while next to this was a modest stand that was made up of a high roof structure over some concrete terracing. The pitch was railed and there was hard standing all around it. It would have been absolutely fine for the level Tetley Walker were at, given the period they were playing at that level, but to play a similar level of football on it now would require some work, but not a vast amount in my view. As a current Step 7 ground, this
was one of the better equipped.

The game itself had nothing on it, but you wouldn't have thought that from the way both teams went about it. The hosts took the initiative but Crewe always looked a dangerous outfit on the break. It was GPSO who took the lead thanks to a clear penalty, and then just before half time they netted again with a very close range header.

The game started to get a bit spiky with Crewe doing their best to get into the faces of the home side but to be fair both teams were kept in check thanks to an assured refereeing display. Crewe got a goal back early in the second half and looked to have the upper hand, but the GPSO back four stayed firm, and indeed it was the Warrington based side that looked likely to grab a third goal as Crewe pushed forward.

As the final whistle blew the curtain came down on the season for both clubs, and indeed for myself after a steady 152 games! I'm sure they were all probably planning to head for a well earned post match drink, and based on the history lesson, I've got a fairly good idea where they'd be going for it!

The Keeper Contemplates A Pint Of......

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Eagles & Wolves

Eagle Sports  0  Knutsford  0

Cheshire Football League - Premier Division

The town of Warrington has a population of over 200,000 people, which compares numerically with the likes of Swindon, Barnsley and Northampton.

Yet when it comes to football, it lags way behind town's of a similar size, plus many that are significantly smaller. A town the size of Warrington, with the best will in the World, you would expect to be the home of a professional football club. But alas not, despite ambitious plans going back years, only twelve months ago did Warrington Town finally made it to the seventh tier of English football, the Premier Division of the Northern Premier League.

That's What You Call A Clubhouse
And that, is pretty much as good as it gets, but why? You could argue that it's pretty simple really, it's the wrong shaped ball. Rugby League dominates in these parts, Warrington Wolves play in the Super League and they average around 12,000 punters through the turnstiles at their impressive Halliwell Jones Stadium in the heart of the town, but it's a Summer sport to be fair?

Warrington isn't alone though, in close proximity you have the town's of Widnes and St Helens, both of whom have their most senior football teams playing two, if not three levels below Warrington Town.

The conclusion you have to draw from this part of the North West is quite simply that football in it's round ball sense doesn't float the boats of the locals, they are much more in tune with the oval ball. Or are they?

Could it perhaps be that with United, City, Liverpool and Everton all being within close proximity of the three aforementioned town's, the football loving public are spoiled for choice and as a result head either East or West for their Premier League fix?

Clouds Over Warrington
It's hard to say, but what I do know is that when it comes to Warrington, after Town, it's a sizable fall down the pyramid before you can start to find football clubs in the locality. Most of them, well three to be precise, play in the Step 7 Cheshire Football League. Namely Greenalls Padgate St Oswalds, Rylands, and today's destination Eagle Sports.

The Eagle Sports & Social Club is located to the West of the town and is best accessed from the M62 rather than what at first glance of the map seems a quicker route via the town centre. Situated between the suburbs of Penketh and Great Sankey, it's not the easiest place to find, tucked in behind some modern housing. However, once into the car park, the sheer size of the venue itself comes as quite a surprise.

The main railed football pitch is the first piece of grass you come across, with the dressing rooms next to the car park, behind one of the goals. Adjacent is a rugby pitch, followed by another rugby pitch, yet to the rear of the social club is a bowling green. Space is certainly not at a premium.

The crowing glory though is the social club, it's a massive building with various bars and function rooms. It's as impressive a place as you will see at any level of football. Clearly though it isn't just about the football, it caters for all sports, Rugby League clearly being the key one, but it also serves the local community. Today they were taking advantage, a Wedding Reception and a kids football session were being well catered for.

The Dressing Rooms
Onto the football. Eagle Sports had a terrible start to the season, but after a change of Manager they steadied the ship and will finish in a very creditable mid-table position. Knutsford's season I've documented previously but the report at the end of the season, which for both sides was today, will state 'should do better'.

On a lovely Spring day, on a clearly well cared for, but hard playing surface, it was the hosts who spent the majority of the game on the front foot, carving out several chances but without being able to breach the visiting defence. Knutsford created a few openings but nothing especially clear cut of note.

While it finished 0-0, it was a game worthy of a goal or two. It certainly wasn't played like an end of season game, and on another day it could easily have been 3-1.

The game was watched by a moderate crowd of spectators, I would say around 30 or so. In the bar before the game, the television was showing the Castleford v St Helens Rugby League Challenge Cup tie, a lad in an Everton shirt had set up camp to watch it for the afternoon.

And therein lies the problem for football in Warrington......

That Clubhouse Again - It's A Bobby Dazzler!

Thursday, 11 May 2017

The Road To Lostock Gralam

Rudheath Social  2  Styal  3

Cheshire Football League – Premier Division

Tapas Night at the Slow & Easy sounds a real belter, the chef is called Jesus!

It was while I was stood taking advantage of the facilities that my eyes were taken by the poster on the wall of the pub on Manchester Road in Lostock Gralam, a venue that I frequented on more than one occasion back in the Summer of 1994.

Slow & Easy - From The Rear..........
I had just graduated from Keele University and for a very brief period I was acquainted with a girl who lived in Northwich, so as a result I spent quite a bit of time touring the highways, byways and public houses of the Vale Royal area.

Lach Dennis, Davenham, Cuddington, Delamere and Whitegate were all places that got a visit, but the Slow & Easy was one of the more popular venues, and it was while sat in the pub all of those years ago that I came up with one of my more bizarre post-student ideas.

“The Road To Lostock Gralam” – It was to be the first novel of my fledgling writing career. At that stage I had no idea what it would be about, but the name sounded good! Let’s be fair though, I was a pretentious young English graduate, and my concept of reality was akin to that of a schizophrenic on acid. It was never going to happen, and it didn’t.

That said, over the past 23 years, as I’ve passed Lostock Gralam on the way to either the homes of Witton Albion or Northwich Victoria, it always raises a smile, as does any random reference to the village, irrespective of the context.

Park Stadium - Home Of The 'Grey Lambs' (Get It?)
My road to Lostock Gralam in 2017 was a somewhat inadvertent one, it was an unfortunate set of political circumstances that lead to a re-visit to the Slow & Easy, and of course the football ground that sits right behind it.

Rudheath Social Football Club were only formed in 1993 and quickly rose from Sunday football into Saturday’s before they eventually worked their way up to the top flight of the Cheshire Football League. They played their home games at Griffiths Park, to the rear of the social club on Middlewich Road in Rudheath, but then the landlords imposed a significant increase in the rent, which meant the club were forced to find a new home, and that’s where Lostock Gralam FC came into the equation.

It’s not been the happiest of seasons for either Rudheath or tonight’s opponents Styal, and as a consequence tonight’s game was crucial. If Styal won, they would move to third from bottom, leaping over Rudheath, but then with Styal having finished their games, Rudheath would need a point from their remaining two games after tonight to escape the final relegation place.

In other words, Rudheath have still got an escape route, for Styal it was win or bust!

Seventies Gold
After a typically arduous journey up the M6, I finally pulled into the car park to the rear of the Slow & Easy. What I found was a lovely football ground in a really nice setting. A brand new Football Foundation funded changing facility sat in a corner while in contrast a small stand that looked to emanate from the seventies sat in the opposite corner. There wasn’t any hard standing but on one side were some grass mounds that provided an elevated viewing position. The ground is beautifully tree lined and clearly well looked after. On a glorious May evening it looked a real picture, the kind of place you would be happy to watch football at, well done to all at Lostock Gralam FC and Rudheath Social FC.

The game was an exciting one, the impressive Callum Whelan scored in the first half to give the fired up visitors the lead, and then the same player scored a cracking second goal just after half time when he fired home from distance.  Whelan scored his hat-trick goal with a well placed low shot from the edge of the box in the 60th minute and you felt at that stage the game was over, but clearly rattled Rudheath had other ideas.

Quick fire goals from Anthony Marshall and Steven Warburton meant that last twenty minutes were going to be tense. Styal had to dig deep and Rudheath began to get frustrated, this boiled over when substitute Sam Didsbury was dismissed for two yellow cards, both for dissent, inside 30 seconds of each other. He’d only been on the pitch seven minutes.

Styal held, on, survival is also on, but it is totally dependant on how Rudheath perform in games against Rylands and bottom placed Garswood. As I said, a point would be enough to get them out of it.

Perhaps next time Rudheath are on the road to Lostock Gralam, they should call into the pub and grab some tapas. A few words with the chef might lead to some divine intervention. I reckon there might be a book in that somewhere……..

Where Jesus Does Albondigas

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Crossing The Line

Nottingham Forest  3  Ipswich Town  0

English Football League Championship

A few years back, when I was seeking the attentions of her who would become Mrs Hatt, I did what every self respecting person does before making any moves, I did a little bit of social media stalking......

I mean, it would be churlish in this day and age not to do ones homework given the vast array of outlets available to us. Clearly the best place to start the research is the photo's, and all was looking fine until I found one in particular that troubled me, it was the one where she was wearing a Forest shirt.

Let's be honest, I'm a born and raised sheep-worrier, and we really don't get on with the Red Dogs, let alone opt to co-habit with them. I did think this could be a bit of an issue, but to be fair, we were both adults, and football is only a game, isn't it? Sensible, educated professionals that we were, a mere difference of opinion over what good football looks like should not be the basis for all out war over the dinner table......

Simple rules were written, when we played each other, we watched the game in different locations (I had to go out!), and after the game we never discussed the outcome. We even went to a stage of not going to the local for a drink on the night of an East Midlands derby game, purely because it avoided getting drawn into any kind of conversation about the match. It worked, but I must admit that day we slapped them 5-0 was a real challenge to keep my mouth shut!

The Hatt's Are On The Pitch.....
I'm a reasonable man, and to be fair to Mrs Hatt, she hadn't been to watch Forest in all the time we'd been together, so last season I agreed to take her and Master Hatt to watch an away game at Cardiff City, I even sat in the away end. It was ok, I didn't feel that unclean afterwards either, so when she asked me to take her to the away game at Brighton I was quite happy, in fact I quite enjoyed the hammering they got and the fact Forest fans came close to fighting with each other!

I'd never been with her to the City Ground before though, in fact I'd not set foot in the place since 1996 when Sunderland spanked them in the Premier League. But, with relegation a distinct possibility on the final day of the season, I agreed once again to take her. It was also going to be Junior's first trip Trentside, not sure why we bothered though, he's only interested in Spurs!

Mist Rolling In From The Trent
The walk to the City Ground took us via the Trent Bridge cricket ground, and even an hour and a half before the noon kick off, it was busy, it was going to be a full house today. The permutations were simple, Forest had to better Blackburn's result, because as it stood Forest had a +1 better goal difference. The tension around the place was tangible, we sat on the embankment and watched the World go by before entering the Brian Clough Stand.

This is the thing though, opposite the Brian Clough Stand is the Peter Taylor Stand, and all around the place you could sense the presence of the two great men looking down on proceedings, two footballing geniuses who's presence is equally felt at Derby. Ok, we hate Forest, but we have a common bond at the same time, and without those two men, our clubs histories could have been vastly different.

The atmosphere inside the ground was electric, 'Born Slippy' thundered from the PA before 'Mull of Kintyre' greeted the kick off. It was an atmosphere, but a nervous one.

In Enemy Territory
Forest started like an express train, for all of two minutes, but then for the next twenty minutes it was all Ipswich. The atmosphere turned flat, Blackburn were 2-0 up Brentford, and if that stayed the same Forest had simply got to win to stand a chance.

Jamie Ward was felled in the box, up stepped Britt Assombalonga to score from the spot just before half time, and the equation changed slightly, if the scores remained the same, Forest would survive on goals scored, it was that tight.

Forest played with a confidence in the second period, Ipswich on the other hand didn't offer an awful lot. Chris Cohen smashed one home from distance via a deflection before Assombalonga saw a second penalty saved brilliantly by Bartosz Bialkowski. Brentford pulled a goal back and by now all looked ok, unless Blackburn went on a scoring spree or Forest capitulated.

They were never going to capitulate, and it was that man Assombalonga, who had discovered the art of running as the game wore on, that smashed the ball into the net from a tight angle to make it 3-0 and game over. Blackburn got a third at Brentford but by now the fat lady was singing.

The attempts to prevent a pitch invasion were unsuccessful, we made it on, all three of us, and photos were taken. Forest were safe, but for a club of this stature and with their history, it's absolutely criminal that they should be battling relegation to the third tier. Fawaz Al Hasawi should do the decent thing and sell the club to owners who will move the club forward.

We all had fun on the pitch, and the walk back to the car was a jolly one, as was the journey home, to civilisation!

It sounds like I enjoyed it? I did to be fair, I was happy for Mrs Hatt that they had stayed up, and that we can renew hostilities again next season. Had it gone wrong, would I have enjoyed it? Probably, in a very different kind of way!

But you know what, after all that, she still says she would never go to a Derby match with me. I should have done more homework, clearly when I saw that photo in the red shirt I ought to have at least asked a few more probing questions.

For some, it's just impossible to cross that line......................

Brian Never Did Like Pitch Invaders

Feel Good Factor

Billinge  2  AFC Macclesfield  1

Cheshire Football League - First Division

I started writing my blog two months ago now, and one thing that has been a real surprise throughout is the amount of positive feedback and encouraging comments that have come my way.

None more so than after I'd written about Billinge winning 10-1 at Egerton on Bank Holiday Monday. The clubs Twitter account was very complimentary, as was the Manager Geoff Parr who left a message via the comments section.

It's always nice to read the comments, but it was also nice to know that people are actually enjoying browsing the blog. I guess as well some clubs don't get a vast amount of interest from outside, so if I can promote a club then I'm more than happy to do so.

Consequently, I've now got a few new 'favourite' clubs as a result, and one of them is Billinge. On Monday I talked about the fact they needed to win the last three games to pip Warrington Town Reserves to the league title, clearly the first hurdle was overcome without any dramas, but the second one today against third placed AFC Macclesfield was to be an altogether different proposition. Third spot was between the lads from Macc and the team from just over the East Lancs Road, Pilkington, with the added spice that it might mean a promotion berth this season depending on what transpires at the end of the campaign.

Billinge Soccer Centre Looms Large
More on the game later. I parked up at the ground and had a walk to the nearby Masons Arms, a pub that is CAMRA award winning (in Wigan at least). Being a neanderthal I avoided some of the real ales and decided to plump for a quite sublime pint of Veltins lager, a drink that I last had the pleasure of in the stadium of Schalke 04. But then when your ground is called the Veltins Arena........

I could have stopped for more, it was a cracking boozer, but driving and a lack of time meant a return to the football ground. It's a bit of a weird one as the ground is located at the back of a small industrial / retail estate, but it looks like it was previously a farm. The Billinge Soccer Centre sits to the very rear of the Barrows Farm ground (ah, so it was perhaps a farm after all?), and this is a large warehouse type building that houses indoor football courts.

I asked if Geoff was around for a quick chat, turns out it was his Father who was working behind the tea bar who I asked the question to. He disappeared and then back he came, with Geoff, and we had a brief discussion about the game. Geoff was quietly assured about the match, they have a superb team spirit at Billinge and they're also playing with confidence, but AFC Macclesfield are no Egerton. He pinpointed a couple of visiting players who they had to be wary of, but at the same time he had a pretty good idea how they would set up. Clearly Geoff is a man a does his research, but at the same time, this was going to be a tough game.

Rural Barrows Farm
It was a cool day in what was a very rural and open location, which seems strange for me to say based on the fact I've just described the journey to the ground as being through a retail estate. I chose to stand behind the visitors dugout in an elevated position, which offered views across to St Helens. Just along from me were a contingent from Warrington Town, no doubt here in hope rather than expectation.

It was a very different game to last Monday, the visitors were clearly well organised, but I did feel that Billinge had the quality, certainly in attack. It was a tight first period but the hosts got the breakthrough to make it 1-0, and then a glorious chance went begging when a clear header on goal should have at least found the target. They paid the price, a long range Macc effort found the net just before half time, the league title bid would rest on the next 45 minutes.

The Warrington Gaggle In The Distance
Just after half time a low shot found the bottom corner and Billinge were back in front. Macc pushed on thereafter but didn't quite have the quality to break Billinge down. Billinge did have a couple of chances to seal the victory but it proved to be a nervy end to the game, but the end did come and the players had a moment to celebrate, before they move on to the final game next week at home to Mersey Valley.

I had to decline Geoff's offer to have a pint in the Soccer Centre after the game, but I will be watching the results closely next weekend. I'm confident they will do what's required, not just because they are a very good side, but mainly because they have the right mindset as both a football team and as a club. That comes from the top, with men like Geoff Parr running the show, you wouldn't expect anything less would you?

The Home Of The Champions?

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Denton Rock

Denton Town  1  Linotype Cheadle Heath Nomads  0

Cheshire League - Premier Division

Visitors to Manchester who choose to make their way via the M67 from the East will be familiar with Denton Rock.

To best describe it to those who haven't had the good fortune to be in a queue of traffic approaching the junction with the M60, it's a blue coloured structure that looks like a cross between a lighthouse and an air traffic control tower. It announces itself to you with the words "Welcome To Denton Rock" in bold letters on the side.

But it's always begged the question to me, what purpose does it serve, and why is it named so?

Firstly the name, and from what I can glean it has no significance with anything historical, industrial, geographical or cultural whatsoever. Allegedly some bright spark at the council decided to simply name it that, along with the retail park that sits alongside it. It was all a bit disappointing when I found that out, I was hoping for a tale with a twist, or maybe even a sub-plot, but no, it was just a case of.... "I know, lets call it Denton Rock...."

What does it do though? Rumours circulated upon it's construction that it was a Police lookout tower, but no, it is simply an eye-catching gateway to the Tameside area of Greater Manchester that doubles up as a quirky form of advertising hoarding. A useful purpose? The jury is probably still out on that one.

It did something else though, something the architects, planners and councillors perhaps didn't consider, and to be fair you could forgive them for that when I explain....

Tea, Coffee, Pies, But No Rock.......
When Denton Town were promoted to Step 7 football in 2011 and I read about it, the first thought that came into my head (other than 'A Touch Of Frost'), was that weird building at the end of the M67, so first of all I could instantly place the club and the town itself, no need for a postcode and Google Maps for this one, it was no Greenalls Padgate St Oswalds!

I've journeyed that way countless times since, and every time I passed the signs for Denton and saw the Rock, I said to myself that I must pay Denton Town a visit. The time had finally come, 3rd May 2017, the calling was strong, it was as though the Rock had mystical powers, it was dragging me in....

Moving swiftly back to reality and sensibility, Denton Town have had a very good season, they sit third in the league behind champions Whaley Bridge and Poynton, while only tonight's visitors Linotype Cheadle Heath Nomads have a chance of overtaking them. It's been a steady rather than a spectacular rise over the seasons, and you could argue that's the right way to do it, building strong foundations and making gradual steps forward.

The ground is not the easiest to find, tucked away at the very back of a housing estate, it kind of opens up on you as you come to the end of a cul-de-sac. It's surrounded on three sides by houses but the final side behind the Eastern goal opens out and gives views over Hyde towards the Peak.

Views Of The Peak
Whittles Park is railed on three sides, it has a smart dressing room complex and club room that served drinks and food. In front of this was an area of hard standing where the bulk of the spectators congregated.

It was a chilly night, and I have to be honest, the football didn't do an awful lot to warm the soul. Billed as a local derby, both sides gave their all and it was undoubtedly a competitive game, but it lacked quality in the final third of the pitch, with less than a handful of chances being created throughout the entire 90 minutes.

The only goal of the game came with around 20 minutes remaining, falling to Denton who managed to breach the visitors back line and finish calmly with a low shot into the bottom corner. I had resigned myself to a 0-0 at this stage, so it was something of a bonus. What it does do though is consolidate the third place Denton hold, and I suspect had they been offered that at the start of the season, they would have taken it.

I See No Rocks?
A good club though, friendly people, and a nice ground that you sense is a real labour of love for those involved.

Maybe if the powers that be would allow them to use that huge advertising space on the side of the Rock to promote future games, crowds could really start to pile into Whittles Park, then it really would be seen as serving a useful purpose!
A Quick Toss

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Club Linesmen

Birchover Park  2  Awsworth Villa Reserves  2

Nottinghamshire Senior League - First Division

I've got a very simple and straightforward view on the subject matter of club linesmen, either don't bother with them at all, or, only let them get involved in throw in's.

The reason is simple, the moment you let them get involved in the decision making process over offside calls, you are quite simply asking for trouble.

It works a bit like this...

The ball goes over the top from Team A, and the opposing club linesman from Team B in all sincerity calls a player offside. Team A go crackers, Team B's lino is a 'cheating bastard', so Team A then issue an instruction to their lino...

"Every time Team B cross the half way line, stick your fucking flag up"

Team A's lino complies, Team B respond by telling their lino the following...

"Cheating bastards, right, we do the same, every time, stick that fucking flag up."

It subsequently turns into a farce, the flag is up at every opportunity, the players get exasperated and the referee is caught between a rock and a hard place. He could ask for the lino's to be replaced, but the cycle only happens all over again.

The Much Maligned Club Linesman
The game at Egerton on Monday didn't have club linesmen, the referee was making all the calls, and to be fair a couple of the goals Billinge scored were offside, but by the same token they had a couple chalked off that were fine. The difference being, no bias, and over the course of a game hopefully, and certainly over a season, the decisions even themselves out.

Steve and myself decided to pay a visit to Birchover Park because we discovered that they were playing on one of the outside pitches at the Harvey Hadden Stadium, and we'd not been there before. Rules is rules, we had to do it, but not before we'd found a watering hole in the shape of a pub on the Bilborough estate. It was ok, apart from the chap in the wheelchair who tried in insist in the absolute strongest terms that we had a game of pool with him, our decline of his kind offer was not well received one bit. We moved to the lounge bar, only for someone to try to throw a pint of lager all over me, he missed, but it was a close call. My crime was that I chose to sat within flinging distance of the said beverage. He claimed it was accidental, the jury remains out on that one.........

The pitch at Harvey Hadden was in poor state, it had a wooden barrier around two thirds of it, and on a windy night I have to confess to not being overly enthused by events and locations thus far, and to be fair, a pretty turgid first thirty minutes did nothing to lift the spirits. Except of course the Birchover Park linesman had found his flag nice and early, and that resulted in a series of expletives heading in his general direction. He had only just got started though, crossing the half way line was the least of Villa's worries!

Solar Panels - Buy Two Get One Free
Birchover scored, I'm not sure how, but they did, and then early in the second period they scored again, this time with a well worked goal. This is when the fun began.

Villa got a penalty, Birchover were not happy, accusations of cheating abounded, and when the spot kick was launched wide, the mocking of the afflicted Awsworth player began in earnest. He kept his calm though when all around him in opposing shirts were probably angling for a confrontation.

Villa then scored the softest of goals, and it was game on. Lo and behold, they then scored another, who was mocking who now? But then our friend the Birchover Park lino came into his own, he saved his best until the virtual last kick of the game.

Villa were buzzing now, they launched the ball forward, Birchover were all at sea. A lobbed effort from a Villa player struck the crossbar as we moved into added time, it rebounded and eluded both the goalkeeper and a defender that was desperately tracking back, it fell to a Villa player who bundled it over the line, it was time for mass celebrations. no doubt inspired by both the linesman's clear ploy to prevent any kind of goalscoring opportunity, and also the antics around the missed penalty when they were 2-0 down.

Up went the linesman's flag, Awsworth were aghast, it was such a serious call that the referee actually took it upon himself to not simply take his flag for it, he chose to got and have a conversation with him. For a few moments we waited with baited breath.

The referee blew his whistle and pointed to the penalty area, indirect free-kick, the goalscorer had been in an offside position when the initial shot had been taken. Cue pandemonium, Villa were furious, Birchover for once kept very quiet.

I turned to Steve and we agreed, if we were being objective about it, it was probably the only decision he got right all game!

The Scene Of The Controversy - The Calm Before The Storm If You Like