Thursday, 30 July 2009
THE PROVERBIAL PEA (AND HAM SHANK) SOUPER NORTON V WIGAN ROBINS
An extract from summat that's upcoming and all that and a look back to last season
Norton Utd 3 - 2 Wigan Robin Park
Competition: Division 1 Trophy, Round 2
November 29, 2008
I’m on the train for this one. On my own.
My mate was going to come with me but he went down with MRS on the Thursday. The Mrs wouldn’t let him go!
Any road it’s a doddle of a journey. Train to Manchester, then to Stoke and then back up the line a stop or two to Longport. Then step off into 1981. It’s like a scene from the film This Is England. Pit Bulls walking Pit Bulls. Pubs with Union Flags flying limply, boarded up houses and the odd corner shop. Get my head down and walk. And walk and walk and walk. One big hill until I get to Burslem.
Burslem’s shut. Bloody hell it’s Saturday afternoon and with Port Vale being away there isn’t a soul about. I nip in The Bull’s Head and it’s lovely. Proper pub, roaring fire, rock music on the jukey and some great real ale available. I do my normal and sample a dark beer followed by a light one. Nobody bothers me as I bury my head in my paper. It is also worth noting that the pub is owned by the Titanic brewery and it looks like the town went down with it.
The climb from the pub to Smallthorne - where Norton United are based – takes on Everest comparisons. However I doubt Edmund Hillary conquered Everest while dying for a piss. And if he did he probably just whipped it out. As long as Sherpa Tenzing didn’t eat the yellow snow it would have been okay. Me I’m on some busy ‘A’ road with houses on either side. Every attempt to nip up a drive way leads to a scruffy little Herbert coming the other way – with aforementioned Pit Bull. I make it – just – to one of those dodgy 1970s pubs that were once the height of fashion. Around about the time Double Diamond was trendy and most beer came in Party Fours. Thankfully it’s one of those pubs where the bog is near the door and you can just nip in there without sight of the bar or mine host.
By the time I gain my senses and check my map I realise the club’s around the corner and make my way into yet another 1960s sink estate. In 2007 Phil and Kristie – those two property gurus off the telly – you know the ones. She’s the chubby posh bit of totty that is rather fanciable while he thinks he’s one of the Mitchell brothers. Well - they and Channel 4 - voted Stoke as the thirteenth worst place in Britain to live in. I wouldn’t like to go to the other twelve! Incidentally Middlesbrough is the worst if you were wondering.
The clubhouse is fine. Wolves and Birmingham are on the telly and the Guinness tastes mighty fine. I settle down waiting for the other Robins to arrive whilst eavesdropping one of their fellas moaning about last week's referee and linesman, his wife, the league and more about his wife. Bloody hell but then again it is the thirteenth worst place in Britain to live.
Norton United were formed in 1989 after a bloke from Norton Cricket Club wanted summat to do in the winter. They were promoted to the NWCL in 2001 where they have continued their development and now run sides at Under 18, 17, 16, 15, 14, 13, 12, 11 and 10’s.
I can see the cricket pitch from the bar. Well I could when I last looked. Then I look again I can see sweet FA. The fog’s come down and there is no chance the game will be on. You can’t see a thing but wait… Taffy and the boys tell me it’s on and as I make my way around to join the rest of the Deadly Dugout Crew the fog gets thicker. It doesn’t seem to bother the ref and off we go. There appears to be about fifty on and if anybody is thinking of going over the wall for free then nobody will see them never mind stop them.
The game takes the normal path with Robins playing the football and Norton booting it long. There are a few scares along the way but with 6 minutes until half time our passing game got the better of them as a fine move resulted in Danny Worthington slipping the ball through to the onrushing Andy Miller who made no mistake in firing the Robins in front.
The second half began three minutes before I’d realised it had! By now you couldn’t see the nose in front of your face. Even Phil Thompson and Pinocchio wouldn’t have been able to see the nose in front of their face.
All I can tell is that Norton seem to be having the better of the game now. Five minutes in John Neafcy says: “Vaughanie can you nip round the other side and do some coaching and help the young lad on the right wing out.”
“Bloody hell John I’ve had seven pints, I can’t see at the best of times and I was brought up on Rugby Union.”
“Aye no problem.
“What’s his name?”
By the time I get round the other side to help young Niall Callaghan out they’ve equalised. A silly free kick was conceded on the right and as the ball was swung in it was only half headed away and some big midfielder managed to head the ball into the net.
By the time I get to have a word with young Niall Callaghan we’re back in the lead through a great Andy Miller goal. That should have been it but Norton upped the pressure again and got their second with twenty minutes remaining, a long ball down the right wing was crossed to the back post which wasn’t dealt with giving the midfielder an easy job of poking the ball home.
With the fog on their backs Norton could sense a winner and with ten minutes left another free kick was conceded on the right. A melee ensued; the ball was up in the air for what seemed like ages before their giant centre half looped a header into the top corner.
As the Robins kicked off the fog lifted but there was no way back. As for my words of encouragement to young Niall Callaghan – well they consisted off a few: “Get at the full back he’s fucking crap” and “just whack the useless piece of shit.”
The remainder of the time I was arguing with one of their lot who may or may not have been “the useless piece of shit’s” dad.
There is no way I’m braving the mean streets of Burslem after dark so grab a lift back to Wigan with Taffy. The linesman also grabs a lift back to Wigan with Taffy. And we have a right laugh with him. This lad who we will call Phil – cos his name is Phil – is absolutely crackers and proves that to be a referee or liner you have to be wired up incorrectly. When asked whether he could see properly in the fog he said: “Yeah not too bad but I had to guess a few times and I couldn’t tell the difference with the kits.” He also conceded there was no way it was going into extra time.
“Oh something would have happened!”
He then went on to tell us how he reffed on a Sunday when he had had a skin full. He was in the final trials for Britain’s Got Talent – as a break-dancer, how he’s applied for the army and how he booked the acts at Newtown Labour Club. This was all told in one of the best stuttering voices I’ve ever heard.
Seemed a decent fella but utterly bonkers and it ensured the journey went with a laugh.
What it all did mean was we were out of the Division One Trophy and – if I could use that old cliché bollocks - could now concentrate on the league.
Official Team Ratings
Jason Foulds 7
Phil Dennett 7
Mark Evans 7
Ben Kay 7
Dougy Pitts 7
Andrew Neafcy 7
Niall Callaghan 7
Scott Callaghan 7
Andrew Miller 7 (2 GOALS * STAR MAN)
Danny Worthington 7
Dean Callaway 7
James Martin 7
Darren Mullen 7
Andrew Miller (39 min): A well delivered through-ball from Danny Worthington was converted by Andrew Miller. A fine finish with the right foot from 18 yards out. (7/10)
Andrew Miller (57 min): A virtuoso solo goal by Andrew Miller, scored from 18 yards out with the right foot. It has to go down in the records as a first-class effort. (8/10)