Saturday, 20 April 2013

Selston 2 v Wollaton 2 - NSL & Underwood Villa 2 v West Bridgford 2 - NSL & Mansfield Town 1 v Wrexham 0 - BSBP

Saturday 20th April 2013
Three matches in one day, starting off with a couple of early starts at the Nottinghamshire Senior League Groundhop event and climaxing with the 5.15pm, Blue Square Bet Premier title decider, at Field Mill, between Mansfield Town and Wrexham.
Notts Senior League, Senior Division
at the Parish Hall Ground
Selston (1) 2
Rich Barnes 4, Tim Moore 90+3
Wollaton (0) 2
Dane Rawson 47, Richard Ranshaw 82
Admission £3, Programme £1, Attendance 358
Selston v Wollaton - NSL -  10.10AM Kick Off
The first person I bumped into upon my arrival at Selston, was the match referee for this mornings opening game, Mr Andy Rolph, going through his usual strenuous and rigorous, pre-match fitness routine, which he cleverly disguises, to make it appear as if he is sauntering around leisurely, while puffing on on great big cigar.
A beaming smile appeared across Andy's face as our paths crossed and we shook hands.
It has been just over a week since I submitted a letter about his handling of an Under 19 League game at Harworth to the registrar, along with the team sheet from the game ... and the comments I'd made in that missive had been passed on to the no nonsense official for him to peruse.
Truth be told, the mark out of 100 I had given him, was the highest I will ever give to any referee, because he impressed me no end with his refreshingly firm but fair style.
Even though we lost the game and he'd had (good) reason to reach for his yellow card, I'd rather have an official who'll allow players a bit of lee way and give as good as he gets in the banter stakes, whilst leaving them in no doubt he won't put up with any crap, any day of the week, than some overly fussy despot or wet behind the ears up and coming young ref, applying the letter of the law to the nth degree under the watchful eye of a meticulously petty assessor.
"Get up, he never touched you!", "Stop playing to the crowd!", "What are you doing down there? I picked that coin up I tossed ages ago!"... ah, music to my ears.
I've been to Selston before, when they were in the Central Midlands League, but the early kick offs, combined with the Blue Square Conference's 5.15pm start today, gave me the (irresistible) opportunity to attend some of the Notts Senior League Bonanza Day games, organised (like clockwork) by the thorough and erstwhile chatterbox that is Rob Hornby, who by now should have been given an OBE for his services to promoting local non league football.
His missus, Hazel, probably deserves an even bigger reward for her loyalty, support, understanding and persistence, that goes well beyond the call of duty too.
Mrs Hornby, you must have the patience of several very patient saints.
Whilst sourcing out the best vantage point in the ground, I happened upon the 1970's wrestling icon Pat Roach (AKA Bomber out of Auf Wiedersehen, Pet), or at least I thought I had; but after inviting him to join me in a chorus of 'Living Alright', it transpired that he was actually a York City supporter called John ;-)
Selston FC, had thoughtfully provided a beer tent for today's event. Alas I was driving, so I could only sample a token amount of one of the real ales on offer.
It was a fine brew called 'Game Over' and the gob full of it I tried was very nice too.
But I wouldn't be able to get around, or do my job, without my driving licence, so I had to resist getting stuck into the sauce today.
Besides, I was still feeling a bit rough after getting in very late (AKA just before breakfast) from a Punk Rock extravaganza in Nottingham last night, featuring Gold Blade, the Electric Shite Orchestra and some other bands I can't remember the name of right now.
I made the acquaintance of the 'handsome hopper' (his words not mine) in the beer tent, who tends to the 100 Grounds Club website and its associated Facebook group. I'm usually spot on when it comes to first impressions and Shaun seems like a top bloke to me ... he even shares my passion for the music of the Pixies, who, of course, first found fame with their ode to Groundhopping in the Northern League titled 'This Monkey's gone to Hebburn'.
Rich Barnes put Selston ahead inside the first five minutes, his goal was bookmarked either side, by both teams crashing the ball against the woodwork.
A little bit of needle started to creep into the game, Andy Rolph had a word in the ears of the instigators about the consequences of what would happen if they didn't wind their necks in a bit, but would they listen?
Inevitably, as the tempo of the game swung towards becoming ever more feisty, the enforcer had to dish out a few cautions, operating proceedings like a authoritarian Gendarme ,directing rush hour traffic.
If some of the players felt the need to give it the large one to Mr Rolph, there was only ever going to be one outcome to that particular head to head.
Selston held on and took their slender lead into the break, but after the restart, Wollaton got to grips with the game and deservedly levelled things up through Dane Rawson.
Inside the last ten minutes, Richard Ranshaw belted the ball home, for what appeared to be the winning goal for the visitors.
But in stoppage type, amidst a flurry of arms and legs, Tim Moore back heeled the ball past Pat Stanhope to salvage a point for Selston.
They'd been great hosts and had pulled out all of the stops to provide a decent match day experience for 350+ visitors to their Parish Hall ground, so you couldn't begrudge them having the final say.
FT - Selston FC 2 v Wollaton FC 2
Note* on various forums, blogs and social networking sites, the goal scorers for the Selston v Wollaton game are listed incorrectly. This stems from the team sheets that were handed out being ever so slightly inaccurate.
The same happened for the second game of the day too.
But feeling of a particularly anal, sad and nit picking disposition today, I left no stone left unturned to seek out the truth, the whole truth and the 100% accurate and correct information.
OK I copied the details off Laurence Reade really ... because if he hasn't got his facts right, nobody else will have done.
Notts Senior League, Division One
at Bracken Park
Underwood Villa (2) 2
Ian Townsend 44, Sam Tring 45
West Bridgford (2) 2
Jamie Prince 5, Jurgen Charlesworth 9
Admission £3, Programme £1, Attendance 341
Underwood Villa v West Bridgford - NSL - 12.45pm Kick Off
Underwood's ground is, literally, just around the corner and along the road from Selston FC.
Their clubhouse and facilities are very much a 'work in progress' building site affair, but it looks as though they'll have an impressive set up once its all finished.
This was my first visit to Bracken Park, though I've probably driven past it hundreds of times without even realising that there was even a football ground here.
The club volunteers did a great job of keeping the food queues moving swiftly along and outside, as the midday sun threatened to hang around all day for a change, the programme and badge sellers were doing a brisk trade.
The Millets Mafia
"Last few badges left if you want one" offered a kindly lady as I walked past, "Err ... no thanks!", I politely responded, without stopping to explain that I would rather eat an omelette made out of rotten eggs and my own sick, than ever own a claret and blue badge with the word 'Villa' on it. 'Nuff said!
Not that I have got anything against the Underwood club, you understand.
West Bridgford went into this game at Bracken Park, a massive 21 points ahead of their hosts and it showed during the opening exchanges, when they stormed into a two goal lead inside the first ten minutes, with both Jamie Price and Jurgen Charlesworth, leaving the Underwood keeper, Nathan Askew, clutching at fresh air, with a brace of quality volleyed finishes.
It looked as though the visitors would then turn the screw and build on their early lead, but the home side started to find their feet a bit towards the end of the first half and Ian Townsend was the architect of their come back, unleashing an unstoppable 30 yard pile driver for his sides first goal, just a minute before the break and then surging forward and rounding the keeper, before hitting the ball towards the goal, where Sam Tring was on hand to nudge the ball across the line for the equaliser.
Possibly it was already goal bound, before Tring got a touch, but nobody was arguing the toss.
From being in a position where they were chasing the game, in warm, strength sapping and tiring conditions, a little over a minute before the break, Underwood went in for a breather on level terms.
I briefly spotted Evertoniam Graeme at half time, who is well on course to attend 300 games this season (and you thought I was obsessive). He must live and sleep in his car to clock up that many miles ... or on his sunbed ;-)
Oh well! When you've gotta go.
The second half was nowhere near as lively as the first and the game petered out into a steady but unspectacular contest ... and to be honest, my attention span was starting to wander, as I began to ponder my third game of the day.
For while the majority of those present at Selston and Underwood, were heading to both Awsworth Villa and Kimberley Miners Welfare, for neutral games of a non partisan nature, I was heading in the opposite direction, for Mansfield Town's most important game for (too) many a long, long year.
Victory for the Stags today, would mean they were back in the Football League, any other result would probably see them pipped at the post by Kidderminster Harriers, who were at home today against the seemingly doomed Stockport County, who appear to be heading to the Conference North this evening. What a sad fall from grace their rapid descent has become.
There but for the grace of God n' all that.
Underwood threatened to clinch the second game of the day, when they pushed forwards in the dying moments, but a couple of free kicks from dangerous positions, amounted to nothing and the draw was just about a fair result in the end.
FT - Underwood Villa 2 v West Bridgford 2
Mansfield Town v Wrexham - BSBP - 5.15pm Kick Off
Blue Square Bet Premier
at Field Mill, AKA the One Call Stadium
Mansfield Town (1) 1
Matt Green (pen) 40
Wrexham (0) 0
Admission £18 (West Stand Upper) the ticket for the posh seats was a birthday present to mark me having reached a significant age earlier this week.
Programme £3, Attendance 6394 (Inc. 142 from Wrexham)
Mansfield Town:
Alan Marriott, Greg Taylor, John Dempster, Lee Beevers, Luke Jones, Adam Chapman, Adam Murray, Lee Stevenson, Louis Briscoe, Lindon Meikle, Matt Green.
Subs: Colin Daniel, Ritchie Sutton, Anthony Howell, Matt Rhead, Jake Speight.
Andy Coughlin, Declan Walker, Leon Clowes, David Artell, Johnny Hunt; Rob Evans, Glen Little (Jonathan Royle 84), Jay Colbeck; Dele Adebola, Adrian Cieslewicz (Mark Creighton 76), Rob Ogleby (Bradley Reid 59).
Subs: Kyle Parle, Jamie Morton.
There is this line in the Stags signature tune 'Mansfield Magic' (recorded and released for their victorious Wembley appearance v. Bristol City, in the 1987 Freight Rover Trophy Final) that goes: "You know Mansfield Town will never let you down".
Hmm, well it rhymes, if nothing else.
But there isn't a lot of historical evidence or hard facts to back up that ever so slightly ambiguous claim.
But today, cometh the hour (and a half, plus stoppage time) n' all that.
It's been almost five years since that fatal day, when Rotherham United all but dotted the i and crossed the t in the Stags last but one Football League game on 26th April 2008, before their inevitable relegation to the Conference (confirmed when Chester City drew with Stockport County on 29th April 2008).
And in that time, despite a 'no show' papering over the cracks FA Trophy Final appearance and a play off semi finalist runners up spot, it would be fair to say that the lows and blows have far outweighed the (all too few) virtually insignificant highs. Until now.
When all is said and done, there is far more to life, than winning regularly at fellow ex League club Luton Town ... regardless of how much fun that actually is.
For the record, because I know some picky swine is bound to ask, the Stags last Football League game of 2007-08, when they were already relegated, was a 2-0 defeat at Dagenham and Redbridge on May 3rd 2008.

The low point for me, was the utterly demoralising and embarrassing 4-0 defeat at Hayes and Yeading United, in April 2011, which included this 'comic capers' own goal from Tyrone Thompson.
While on loan keeper David Grof punched the ground and kicked the goal post (he should've battered Tyrone Thompson instead), the takings at a nearby bar suddenly increased rapidly, when a whole load of us exited the ground en masse to drown our sorrows.
Our mood was not improved when some imbecile had stupidly parked his BMW where it blocked our coach in after the game. He'll never know how lucky he is that he still has a f***ing car!
But after today, well, we can look back and reminisce about the bad old days and consign them to history.
This afternoon, the Stags performance, was below par, tired and frustrating in equal parts.
But did anybody notice?
I mean, who cares?
The result was all that mattered.
Wrexham put up little in the way of attacking prowess all afternoon and seemed content to let their goalkeeper Andy Coughlin have as many touches of the ball as possible, as time after time, he intervened and broke down a whole host of semi potent and almost threatening attacking moves.
The breakthrough came on 40 minutes, when Glen Little felled Louis Briscoe as he ran into the Wrexham penalty area and Matt Green tucked away the resultant spot kick in front of the 142 visiting supporters, dotted around the North Stand.
Obviously the majority of Wrexham's fans were saving their pennies for the forthcoming play off games and had stayed at home.
It's a shame that the powers that be couldn't have split the North Stand in half and let a few more local football fans have several hundred more tickets for this vital game, but I guess we're all wise after the event.
You trying holding a camera still and going mental at the same time.
For the record.
Matt Green's strike from 12 yards out, which the keeper very nearly got to, was the goal of the season.
In fact it was the greatest goal to have been scored at Field Mill at any time during the last half a decade.
Never mind it's simplicity and lack of build up play and ingenuity, that was the pivotal moment that finally nailed the lid shut on five years of Non League football for the Stags.
Get in!
A week after their FA Cup 3rd Round exit to Liverpool ('If you still hate Suarez clap your hands!'), the Stags slipped to a 2-0 home defeat against (ironically) Kidderminster Harriers, but then went on a remarkable 17 game run, that saw them lose only once, at Newport County, but win the other 16 games.
This month, prior to today, Mansfield have won 4 but lost 2 games, at Wrexham and Braintree Town, which brought about this winner takes all final Saturday of the Blue Square Bet Premier season, which saw Kidderminster Harriers kick off just 2 points adrift of the Stags and just one goal behind on goal difference.
If Harriers won by more than one goal today and the Stags didn't beat Wrexham, then Paul Cox's side would've slipped into the play offs. 
It was that tight. 
Word came through that the Kidderminster and Stockport players had been taken from the pitch by the referee at Aggborough, after some of County's away following had invaded the pitch as emotions soared.
It was reported that players from both teams were attacked, though that was possibly only conjecture and gossip.
One thing that was factual, is that with play having been suspended at other game while the police restored order, Kidderminster's game would now be finishing over 30 minutes after the Stags v Wrexham and if Andy Morrell's side were to score an equaliser, or even worse, win this game, then the Harriers would know exactly what they needed to do in order to snatch that all important top spot.
Time ticked on, agonisingly and seemingly at half speed and although Wrexham seldom looked like penetrating the home sides rearguard, it would only take one successful counter attack from North Wales finest, to completely ruin the majority of people present at this games day/season.
I have no wish to elaborate, due to too many unhappy memories, but Mansfield Town don't do play offs!
Through the years, I've heard so many stories about twists and turns on the final day of the season ... folklore about police dogs biting players to hold up games where a late goal as salvaged a clubs season from disaster and goalkeepers storming up to the far end of the pitch to head home 94th minute goals. But those amusing anecdotes all happened to other peoples teams, elsewhere.
The chances of Kidderminster benefitting from an as of yet unwritten late drama, kept everybody on the edge of their seats right up until the full time whistle.
Former Stags defender David Artell, was harshly shown a straight red card late in the game, as the visitors were reduced to ten men.
And then, finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the match referee Nicholas Kinseley blew for full time and it no longer made any difference to the Stags that Kidderminster Harriers were on their way to a 4-0 victory over Stockport County, because 'You know Mansfield Town will never let you down" and for oncem they bloody well haven't.
Kidderminster Harriers, Wrexham, Newport County and Grimsby Town will now contest the play offs to see who wins the second promotion spot.
Walking away from the triumphant scenes of jubilation, unrestrained joy and no small amount of sheer relief, my mate asked me who I'd like to see promoted to League 2, along with the Stags. I replied; "Why are you talking to me about those Non League teams? Mansfield Town are a Football League club now"
Obviously, if there was any justice in the world, the Harriers will go on to clinch promotion having finished as runners up ... but football, like life itself, isn't always fair like that.
Good luck to all concerned.
Right ... it's party time. Don't wait up!!!
No time for Luton, 'cos we are the champions ...