Archive for December, 2022

Burnley v Middlesbrough, Saturday 17th December 2022, 3pm

December 19, 2022

At the start of this season there were two Championship grounds that I had yet to visit, Burnley and Watford. I missed the chance to go to Vicarage Road in the summer as we were over in The Lakes and it would have meant a ten hour round trip for an evening game. That left Burnley and fortunately Harry and I had just enough priority points for me to nab a couple of the remaining tickets and the last two seats on one of the Supporters Club coaches.

In the end I went by myself as Harry was ill. Shame really as he likes the away games where we stand in our end and sing. He enjoys the coaches too, particularly the banging on the window and the gesturing at the home fans walking to the ground. Oh, to be eleven again.

Mind you, a spare seat next to you on a coach isn’t a bad thing, particularly when the weather extends the journey time from two hours to three. The snow had laid and most of the livestock that we drove past looked as if they would rather be anywhere else than stood in a field.

We parked up with an hour and a half to kick-off. Burnley cricket club had opened up for away fans and it was packed with most of the 2,500 travelling support. I’m not overly keen on drinking cold beer when the outside temperature is close to freezing and so I limited myself to sausage and chips from the kitchen on the second floor.

It was all a bit busy and so I left everyone to it and headed back out towards the ground, passing the Jimmy Anderson Stand. I wonder if he ends up bowling there when his England and Lancashire days are over. We might have to wait a few years for that.

It didn’t take long to negotiate security outside the turnstiles. I had my big Russian coat on which already weighs as much as you’d expect a coat to do if the pockets were filled with flares and house bricks. Fortunately, I’d neglected to being anything like that and after a cursory pat down I was in.

My seat was central in the lower tier in the old stand behind the goal. There was another old stand to my right, the Bob Lord Stand, with newish looking structures to my left and at the other end.

I went into the game reasonably hopeful of getting something out of it and when Watmore put us ahead just after the break, three points looked a possibility. If the penalty appeal just afterwards had gone our way, then I think we might well have won. A twelve-minute spell where Burnley scored three times scuppered it though and a saved penalty near the end denied us a frantic finale. It was an enjoyable day out and another Championship ground ticked off. Just Watford remaining to complete the division.

Middlesbrough v Luton Town, Saturday 10th December 2022, 3pm

December 11, 2022

It seems ages since we’ve been to the Riverside, but it’s just five weeks. In that time though I’ve seen ten games elsewhere including fixtures in Latvia and Qatar, so it’s little wonder that the memories of the draw against Bristol City on the afternoon of Bonfire Night have already faded.

Jen and I drove back from Cumbria on the morning of the game. We’d stayed over the night before after a Boo Hewerdine gig. The trip had also given us the opportunity to do a little bit more of the Hadrian’s Wall National Trail. We did the good bits in the middle of the route ten years ago, but have recently been completing the sections at the western end. There’s not much wall to see, but it’s easy walking and well-signposted, so requires little preparation other than remembering where we left the trail on the previous visit.

On this occasion we had time to walk for six miles from Crosby on Eden to Rickerby Park and back. The temperature rarely got above zero and we saw little wildlife other than geese and robins, but it was great to be out in the fresh air before the daylight faded.

The gig was very good too. Boo was playing in the village hall in Armathwaite which has a capacity of less than one hundred. There was no bar, but everyone was encouraged to bring their own drink and we had a great view from the front row. Jen was a bit worried that he might think we were stalking him as we were front row in a small club in Bradford for one of his gigs last year, but I don’t think he recognized us.

I remember being front row for Mark Lamarr at the Comedy Store in Leicester Square thirty-five years ago. I had my beer resting on the stage and then my feet. Lamarr and I exchanged a few words during the show, culminating in him asking if I thought I could do better than him and then challenging me to step up on to the stage. I accepted his invitation and did an impression of Mr. Whippy having a shit. It got as big a laugh as he had done all night. Thankfully for the people of Armathwaite, the stage was too far away for me to put my feet up and there was no reprise of my brief stand-up career.

Having dropped off Jen, I picked up Harry and Alistair and we made our way to the Riverside. Talk was all about how Carrick was likely to have benefitted from the World Cup break with him having had the chance to get his ideas across the players. We also wondered how Riley McGree would do after the career high of playing in a World Cup against Messi.

Initially it looked as if there had been little benefit to us from the World Cup break as we struggled to assert ourselves against Luton, but we grew more into the game as the first half progressed. McGree looked more confident than usual, so perhaps there was a Qatar dividend. With time running out another Crooksy cameo goal took the three points and moved us into the top half of the table.

Wakefield AFC v Parkgate, Tuesday 6th December 2022, 7.45pm

December 7, 2022

I’ve not been to many mid-week games lately as I’ve just about exhausted my options for new grounds that I can get to in under an hour or so driving. However, Paul had a spare ticket for The Cure in Leeds and as Jen is a fan we decided to head down with the plan that she would attend the gig whilst I occupied myself elsewhere.

I could have watched the Portugal-Switzerland match on the telly in the hotel but live football is always better and so I drove the twenty-odd minutes to Featherstone to watch Wakefield take on Parkgate in the tenth-tier Northern Counties East Division One.

The Millennium Stadium is primarily a rugby league ground but Wakefield get to use it in the rugby off-season when Featherstone Rovers aren’t playing. They might play there during the rugby season too, but I haven’t checked as there’s a limit to how much research I’m willing to do for these posts.

What I did find out is that the ground is a lot older than its name would suggest, assuming that it refers to the second millennium and not the one just before King Harold had his eye out. It dates back to 1908 with the main stand having been built in the fifties and two of the smaller stands recycled from Scarborough when they switched grounds twenty years or so ago.

It was a fiver in and as usual I bought raffle tickets. Less usually, I actually won. I popped up to the bar at half-time and was given the choice of a Wakefield beanie or scarf or a trucker’s cap supplied and branded by the sponsors, Lucas Oil Products. I’ve never driven a truck, but on the off-chance that I might do someday I selected the cap.

In addition to the drinks options available in the bar there was also a burger van open. The chips in curry sauce washed down with a Bovril worked well in temperatures not far above freezing. I was glad of my Russian coat, but did think that long johns might have been a sensible addition in the circumstances.

There was a decent turnout of 211 for a game at this level, particularly with World Cup football on the telly. Many of them nursed a pint of lager which didn’t seem like the greatest choice of drink. It was the sort of evening where hot toddies or mulled wine might have been big sellers if available.

Wakefield took the lead in the opening few minutes and then added a second mid-way through the first half. They were well on top throughout the opening forty-five minutes and missed numerous chances as well as having one disallowed for offside. It’s no exaggeration to say that they could have gone in at the break six goals to the good.

The standard was decent, higher I thought than the equivalent level Northern League Division Two, on a pitch with grass that needed an inch or so trimming off it. Maybe it’s kept that way at the request of Featherstone Rovers.

The game looked over when Wakefield scored from a Panenka penalty early in the second half, a move that had the Parkgate keeper chasing after the scorer in a rage. It might have turned into a rout at that point but Parkgate stemmed the pressure and pulled one back midway through the half. From that point the game got increasingly niggly culminating in a home player seeing red for exacting some retribution off the ball. The visitors scored from the subsequent free kick to set up a frantic last few minutes. However, Wakefield managed to see the game out with ten men to take the points that had looked to be in the bag just half an hour earlier.

I’m told The Cure were very good, but I think I made the right choice with my evening’s entertainment.

Kirkby Lonsdale Reserves v Burton Thistle, Saturday 3rd December 2022, 11.30am

December 5, 2022

Jen and I had driven across to Cumbria last month for a Westmorland League fixture on the strength of a Twitter post that mentioned that one of the teams, Kirkby Lonsdale Reserves, had fielded a sixty-eight-year-old in their previous game. Unfortunately, that game at Sedbergh was postponed and so we missed an opportunity of seeing such an unusual occurrence in person.

Once I get an idea in my head I’m persistent though and so two weeks later we headed back over, this time to Kirkby Lonsdale to see their reserve team take on Burton Thistle in the seventeenth-tier Westmorland League Division Four.

Ideally on a trip like this we’d go for a walk beforehand or at least have a mooch around the town. However, due to the possibility of England playing their round of sixteen World Cup game on the afternoon, the fixture had been pre-emptively brought forward to an eleven-thirty kick-off.

I’d intended that we hung around and had some lunch afterwards, but it was Christmas Market weekend in Kirkby Lonsdale and the place was crammed with people eager to pay over the odds for anything sprinkled with cinnamon. That made parking difficult for those of us with an important reason to be there and meant that after the game I was happy to clear straight off.

The match was at Lunefield Park. It’s an area down by the river with two marked pitches and a clubhouse. We were on the pitch furthest from the river without the dugouts. Initially I only noticed one other spectator apart from Jen and myself, although as the game went on a few other people wandered over, with all of them looking as if they had some connection to the home side.

None of the players seemed to be close to seventy, with the oldest looking like he might be around fifty. I wondered if one of the linesman might be the elderly fella who had turned out last month but he flatly denied it and, as he seemed to be from the Burton Thistle camp rather than Kirkby Lonsdale, was probably telling the truth.

The game was played in good spirit and well-controlled by the ref, who conducted himself as if it were a Premier League match. He wasn’t helped by either linesman who rarely made a call that didn’t favour their own team. The home lino combined his flag waving with coaching the players near to him and appealing to the ref for various decisions. I’m surprised that he didn’t also take the odd corner.

The standard was as you might expect for a game at its level. Most of the goals came from defensive errors and it ended up with Kirkby Lonsdale running out four-two winners. Burton missed a few chances, particularly in the second half, and could easily have come away with at least a point. No doubt we’ll be back over to the Westmorland League before long in the hope of catching sight of the old bloke.

Horseracing at Catterick, Monday 28th November 2022

December 5, 2022

It’s been quiet for a while on the horseracing front. The syndicate voted to keep Ironopolis and run him as a three-year-old. It’s a decision I was pleased with as I think he has potential and I’d rather see him win in our colours than in someone else’s.

It was also decided that as he won’t run until Spring at the earliest, we would lease a horse for a few months for over the winter. One of the syndicate members has a suitable horse and so it’s ownership was temporarily switched and a few of us went along to Catterick to see his first run over hurdles.

Catterick is a small, quiet track and just the sort of place I like, particularly on a winter weekday. There was a lot of fog in the air, so much so that there was some doubt over whether the meeting would go ahead. The commentator struggled once the horses were more than about fifty yards from his position and so had to just make assumptions as to where he thought they might be.

The owner’s badges entitled us to some lunch and so we had cottage pie in an upper tier restaurant that would have normally provided a great view of the course. On this occasion it was fine for the hundred yards or so to the right or left but of little benefit elsewhere.

Positive Force didn’t have the best of days. The bookies had him down as fifth choice in a field of seven and he finished sixth. It might have been that he was still not fully rested from his flat season efforts or maybe the ground was a bit of the soft side. Alternatively, he may just be a horse that isn’t keen on jumping over things.

There was talk of a possible run on the all-weather, so maybe reverting to the flat and a shorter distance might suit him better.