Archive for the ‘Hiking’ Category

CISA v Flatirons Rush, Sunday 19th June 2022, 6pm

June 26, 2022

In all we spent a week in Colorado, initially staying a night in the woods, then a couple of nights at the in-laws and then four nights in a cabin at a family celebration ten thousand feet up in the mountains at Leadville. On the drive up to the cabins Jen and I were distracted by a sign for Buffalo Bill’s grave and museum. Who wouldn’t detour for that?

It was an interesting way to while away an hour with some vintage footage of the wild west shows and memorabilia. There was a book that listed his touring performances and I noticed that he played Stockton and Middlesbrough on successive nights in July 1904.

From what I can gather, the Stockton show may well have been down by the railway line across the road from Norton Aldi. I might dig a little deeper as its weird to think of Buffalo Bill having galloped around a place more commonly used these days by young kids on motorbikes. Maybe we should re-introduce bison to Norton and give the lads on their bikes a chance to round them up.

The mountains around Leadville are great for walking. We hiked a total of thirteen miles around Turquoise Lake on a trail that was mainly on the flat and benefitted from good tree cover. The higher altitude in Colorado made the temperatures much cooler and far more pleasant to hike than it had been in both Pennsylvania and Nebraska.

We also went up a big hill to a height where there was still snow on the ground. It took about two hours to get to the lake at eleven thousand feet that we were aiming for and there were some great views on the way up of the mountains behind the torrents of water gushing downwards.

Some of the group suffered a bit from the altitude and so had to go back down and I was pleased that Jen and I had been in Colorado for a few days in advance. At the lake we ate our left-over pizza from the previous night and tried to tempt the trout in the clear water to take a bite of crust. They would swim towards the splash but then decline the crumb at the last minute.

Whilst there were no sporting events to watch in Leadville, Jen and I had been able to get to a football game whilst staying at David and Jackie’s house. It was a few miles away at the Randy Penn Stadium at Englewood High School and in the fourth tier USL2.

Colorado International Soccer Academy were taking on Flatirons Rush in the Western Conference, Mountain Division. It’s a division with only five teams and Flatirons went into the game in second place in the table with CISA two places below, but having played fewer of their fixtures than the rest of the division.

We arrived at the High School car park to find people tailgating. They waited until the national anthem struck up before packing up their beer and food and heading inside. Over on the opposite side of the pitch there were people who watched the entire match from their truck, saving the ten dollar admission fee. The fence didn’t obscure the view too much and by standing in the back of the truck they were able to get a perfect view.

The Randy Penn stadium looked as if it was more usually used for American Football, with the markings on the pitch and the posts still up at each end. There was also an athletics track around the pitch.

We sat in a twelve row aluminium stand that ran the length of one side of the pitch and there was a smaller, similar stand opposite that hadn’t been opened for this game. I’d estimate that the attendance peaked at around sixty.

CISA were in light blue and, I think, were an U23 side. Visitors Flatirons Rush, who were in a white and grey kit, had the best of the early possession and territorial advantage. They took the lead ten minutes in after a break left them in a two against one position and the free man neatly tucked the ball away.

Flatirons should really have doubled their lead on the half-hour from a penalty awarded after the lino spotted some skulduggery in the box. The shot came back out off the inside of the post and so it stayed at one-nil.

The second goal came on the hour when a Flatirons striker broke away and sat the keeper on his arse before rounding him to roll the ball into the empty net.

It was a niggly game and CISA didn’t take well to being behind. There were a few tackles where the foot was left in and plenty of off the ball contact. One of the home coaches was sent off for bending the ear of the fourth official one time too many and his team picked up at least two yellows for dissent.

Flatirons sealed the points from a free-kick on the edge of the box that they took quickly and whilst the CIMA defence were still trying to organize the lining up of a wall. A simple pass to a man stood unmarked in the box allowed him the luxury of knocking the ball into an open goal whilst the keeper was still holding the far post and demanding the wall moved six inches to the left.

Colorado Rockies v San Diego Padres, Saturday 18th June 2022, 7.10pm

June 25, 2022

After staying in Laramie, it was a relatively short two-and-a-half-hour drive to Denver where we met up with Jen’s brother and sister-in-law. David had planned a wild camp for the four of us in one of the forest parks in the Rocky Mountains and so we set off before lunch with their two dogs.

We didn’t have to move too far off the trail to find somewhere to pitch the tents and we spent a very enjoyable twenty-four hours out in the mountains. Whenever I’ve wild camped it has always a bit slapdash with cereal bars or maybe a tin of rice pudding. David and Jackie had brought us four Cornish hens and tequila. I need to up my game.

Jackie is a big baseball fan and regularly goes to see the local major league team, the Colorado Rockies. The night after the wild camp they had a game against the San Diego Padres at Coors Field in Denver and so Jackie and I went along.

Denver was extremely busy as their ice hockey team was at home in the finals of the Stanley Cup. That meant two large spectator events within about a mile of each other. We arrived early though and with a pre-booked parking space a few minutes’ walk from Coors Field we were soon inside.

Our early arrival meant that we were able to pick up ‘bobble-heads’ that were given away free to the first fifteen thousand spectators. I’ve enough tat in my life and so mine will end up at Jackie’s parents.

I wasn’t driving and so was able to have a couple of beers. They came in twenty-four-ounce cans, which is about a pint and a half, I think. I must be getting used to American prices as fourteen dollars a can didn’t seem out of the ordinary. I also had a polish sausage which was an improvement on the usual hot dog as it had a bit more spice amongst the minced lips and eyelids.

Our seats were in the upper tier, reasonably central behind the plate. At twenty-five dollars they compared very favourably with the prices I had been paying for minor league games. We got an excellent view of all that was going on in the stadium and also the Rocky Mountains to our west.

We also had a good view of the scoreboard which switched sports every time the hockey team scored a goal in their game. We saw the Avalanche put seven past their Florida opponents and take a two to nothing lead in their Stanley Cup final.

As the game went on, I thought back to my time in Kazakhstan where I worked with a Rockies fan. It was the year that they made the World Series and my friend Mike had talked up their chances as the season progressed. It didn’t conclude as planned as they lost at the final hurdle, but for a few months back in 2007 I was caught up in it all by proxy. I think Mike died a few years back, but I’m glad I got to the Coors Field that he wistfully spoke about.

The game was evenly matched and level at four-each at the end of the seventh. The Rockies nipped five-four in front in the eighth and then brought on a new pitcher for the ninth. Apparently, he was a fella with an interesting backstory in that he had been a decent player then lost form sufficiently to retire, before coming back after regaining his confidence training in his garden.

It went well for him, and he finished off the Padres without them drawing level. With the supporters of both Denver sides celebrating victory, it was a lively atmosphere outside as we headed back to the car.

Atomic Pork Chops v Winnipeg Goldeneyes, Saturday 11th June 2022, 6.30pm

June 12, 2022

After Buckingham, Jen and I drove up to Newark to swap the hire car for the one originally booked and then headed to the Keystone State Park for three nights. We had a ‘modern cabin’ booked. I think ‘modern’ refers to it having a bathroom, something that didn’t strike me as being particularly modern at all. It was an enjoyable place to stay, as most accommodation with a firepit tends to be, although there wasn’t much in the way of wildlife nearby other than rabbits and squirrels.

In an effort to try and see bears and snakes, or at a push some deer, raccoons or muskrats, we went for a hike around the lake and up into a forest. It was a good way to spend a morning but despite wandering around for six miles we didn’t really see anything other than birds and butterflies.

Next stop on the trip was Chicago. It’s somewhere that I’d picked mainly because I thought there would be good opportunities for sporting events. It’s also somewhere with a bit of family history in that one of my grandads visited it in the 1920’s and saw someone shot dead whilst walking down the street. He was in the merchant navy and travelling cross-country from New York to San Francisco to join his next ship. I don’t know how long he and his shipmates spent in the city but I thought it interesting, particularly when walking around some of the historical areas, that they might very well have walked the same streets getting on for a hundred years or so ago. We didn’t see anyone shot dead, so maybe Chicago is a bit safer than in the 1920’s.

One of the things that I’d like to do sometime is see a baseball game at Wrigley Field. Whilst it’s not quite the oldest, it’s probably the best known of all the baseball stadiums. The Cubs were out of town though and so we had to make do with a tour. It was very informative and we started off with some general info whilst sitting in various parts of the stands, before moving down to pitch side to stand in the outfield.

We then moved on to the locker room used by the visiting team and at various times over the years by Paul McCartney, Pele and Michael Jordan. It was strange to look around and imagine each of them preparing to head out into the daylight.

We then went up to the press box and finished up by sitting in the home dugout. I’ll get back for an actual Cubs game at some point.

Whilst there was an option of going to a MLB White Sox game across town, I decided to head for some lower league action instead at the Midwestern Medical Field. It’s a stadium that dates back to 1991 and has a capacity of almost eleven thousand.

The game was in an independent league for teams too far from others to be allowed to play in the AA or AAA leagues. The Kane County Cougars were taking on the Winnipeg Goldeneyes. Although for some reason the Cougars were playing as their alter-egos, the Atomic Pork Chops. This may have been a ploy to sell different shirts and more bacon products. Who knows?

We opted for central bench seats at fifteen dollars, although we could have paid ten dollars to sit on the grass. Or even ten dollars to walk past the grass and sit in the fifteen dollars seats. I had a hot dog which didn’t look as good as the hot dogs that I saw some other people eating so there must have been some selection option that I hadn’t noticed.

Jen went for a funnel cake. I’d not heard of it and tried a bit. It’s just mis-shaped donut really. It tastes ok but I can’t see it catching on.

Winnipeg Goldeneyes are a Canadian team, from approximately eight hundred miles to the north. I doubt that you get many away fans in this league. A father and son duo who had been roped in to sing the Star Spangled Banner also trotted out what I presume was the Canadian anthem. It’s not particularly catchy and maybe something like ‘I’m a Lumberjack’ would have gone down better.

For additional between innings entertainment we were treated to stunt dogs. These were collies that had been trained to catch frisbees and run between their owner’s legs. It was better than it sounds and but unfortunately none of them took a piss against any of the bases.

We also had races between the mascots and small kids around the bases and something called battle ball where small children put their upper bodies into an inflatable ball and then tried to concuss each other. They also sang Happy Birthday to those celebrating that day. Jen asked me if the song triggered any particular thoughts, which it didn’t. Turns out it was her birthday and I’d forgotten. Again. I like being married to someone who doesn’t make a deal about something like that. I suspect that some fellas in a similar situation may have ended up in a worse state than the battle ball kids.

Goldeneyes went three up early on and then twice finished an innings with the bases loaded but without adding to the score. It looked as if this might come back to bite them in the arse when the Pork Chops hit three single home runs, two of them in successive balls to level at three all in the sixth. The Canadians got away with it though running out five-three winners in the end.

Torch FC v Pennsylvania Classics, Sunday 5th June 2022, 6pm

June 7, 2022

After spending a couple of nights in a hut on top of a hill in Kempton Jen and I moved on to the nearby town of Buckingham. It’s another small place and less than sixty miles from Newark Airport where we’ll need to swap hire cars.

Jen had noticed that there was a heritage railway on the way and so we stopped to take a ride. The conductor was an friendly fella to chat to and despite having worked there since ’76, a relative new boy compared to some of the other volunteers. There was an old bloke sat near to us who spoke just like Paulie Walnuts. I made sure that I did nothing to upset him.

Buckingham has a nearby nature reserve and so we spent a couple of hours following some of the trails. I’d been hoping to stumble across bears and snakes like our last visit to the states, but the most we saw were squirrels and a heron. It was still a worthwhile wander about though and with plenty of tree cover we managed to spend most of our time in the shade.

One of the other advantages of Buckingham was that there was a fourth tier fixture scheduled for the evening of our arrival and as it was only twenty-minutes down the road we popped along. Torch FC were taking on Pennsylvania Classics in the Keystone Conference of the National Premier Soccer League. It’s a short competition with the eleven teams in the league playing each other just the once and all within a seven week period.

The game took place at Pennridge High School. There wasn’t a fixed price for admission but a suggested donation of ten dollars a head. Whilst it struck me as expensive for a fourth-tier game, we’d paid twice that for third-tier Richmond a few days earlier and so I coughed up. We were given a free programme which was a pleasant surprise.

Refreshments were better value with Jen getting a one dollar pretzel whilst I went big on a two dollar hot-dog.

I learned from the programme that Torch FC are a sort of Christian missionary project, a ministry through sport. Prior to the national anthem, which was sung by the club president from the commentary box, there was a prayer thanking God for providing a sunny day suitable for football. I’m sure there are plenty of football fans that will offer up a prayer during a game, more likely in respect of the result rather than the weather, but I’ve always thought that if there were any gods listening they’d have better things to do than get caught up in sporting events, particularly obscure ones.

Having said that, I’ve probably got better things to do most of the time than attending lower tier fixtures, so who’s to say that gods don’t have a similar mindset and are happy to prioritise prayers for minor leagues over major pandemics.

Once again, the pitch was cluttered with markings for a variety of sports in different colours. I reckon that six different activities took place on the pitch, including lacrosse. One benefit, I suppose, was that the ref was able to avoid pacing out ten yards at a free-kick and instead simply referred the players to the American Football one-yard markings to determine the placing of the wall.

Torch were in white with an orange trim, whilst Pennsylvania Classiscs were in a dark blue and teal kit. The players were all very polite, some of them referring to the ref as ‘sir’. We should adopt that in England.

Not a lot happened for most of the first half. Torch rattled a post a few minutes from the break before opening the scoring a couple of minutes into added time when the keeper flapped at a cross and someone tapped home from close range.

Torch doubled their lead on the hour before Classics notched a couple of goals to level the scores with fifteen minutes remaining. The points went Torch’s way though with a disputed late penalty that led to off the ball head-butting and a distinctly un-Christian reluctance from those involved to turn the other cheek.

Kirkoswald v Endmoor, Saturday 22nd January 2022, 2pm

January 25, 2022

For one reason or another my match-going has all been at weekends recently. I’d been hoping to get along to a game or two mid-week, but other commitments and cancellations meant that it didn’t happen.

On the plus side I’d been able to attend a couple of gigs this week. The Howl and the Hum were back in town at Ku Bar on the Wednesday with the age of the crowd a fair bit lower than at most of the gigs we get to. They were very good. The odd song veered into U2 territory but a lot could easily have fitted into a Sea Power set. That’s good enough for me.

Two nights later we were at the Westgarth for The Men They Couldn’t Hang. One of our party described them as ‘Pound Shop Pogues’ which, on reflection, was probably a little harsh. Best thing though was that they had Bobby Valentino fiddling for them. Surprisingly he didn’t do his Bluebell’s Young at Heart riff. Is it a riff when it’s a violin? If I were him I’d be dropping it into every song I played. In fact I’d play a quick burst of it everywhere from waiting for cod and chips to queuing for a pile cream prescription. Unfortunately he missed out on a photo as he was skulking behind the speakers.

Anyway, after taking my Mam shopping at Tesco on the Saturday morning, Jen and I were free to head over to Kirksowald, near Penrith, for what was left of the weekend. It meant that we could do some walking the day after the game.

The walk went well and took in a loop that started and finished near to Kirkoswald Castle. The fortification was nothing special though and if I was planning to invade I’d target one of the pubs instead and leave the edge of village defences to themselves.

Our walk took over five hours and went to Little Salkend and back. On the way out we called at Lacy’s Caves and then returned via the Long Meg stone circle. Highlight though was walking through a field of attentive pigs. Sadly I was under strict instructions not to try and be-friend them but to just keep walking.

Pigs aside, there wasn’t much in the way of wildlife. I thought I’d spotted a deer lying close to the river but when we got nearer it turned out to be a log. It’s a rare species, the log deer. Not very skittish at all.

Ok, the match. We’d crossed the Pennines for a game in the Westmoreland League. It’s a league with three divisions that sit from the fourteenth to sixteenth tiers of the English pyramid. This was their highest level, a Division One game between Kirkoswald and Endmoor at Kirkoswald’s Old Showfield pitch.

Kirkoswald, in red and black, were going into the game in second place in the table with Endmoor, in green and black, in fourth.

We arrived just before kick-off and at a time when it looked like there were only two other spectators in attendance. As the game progressed the crowd swelled to around twenty, although some of them may well have been volunteer stewards or club officials.

It was free to get in and as the only parking was alongside the pitch we watched most of the game from the car. It was like being in an executive box. There weren’t any other options at the ground for sitting other than the swings at the nearby playground or getting a couple of camping chairs out of the boot.

It was a good natured game with the only vitriol reserved for the players who had been press-ganged as linos whenever they gave a fifty-fifty or less decision in favour of their own side. The ref, who spent most of the game pacing the centre-circle, ignored or overruled the dodgiest of the decisions.

The standard, as you might expect at this level, wasn’t great, but it was a well-matched contest where the defences dominated. We reached half-time without either keeper having to make anything other than a regulation catch.

The teams were only away for five minutes at the break. That’s ideal when there’s no food or drink to queue for. Endmoor took the lead with twenty minutes remaining. The ball fell to someone loitering around the penalty spot and whilst his shot didn’t have much power to it, he placed it well enough for the keeper to stand little chance.

The visitors held the advantage for around five minutes before their keeper gambled on reaching a through ball before the striker could. He didn’t quite get there in time and the ball was knocked past him into an empty net for one each.

There were no more goals and the draw did little to enhance Kirkoswald’s title chances. I suspect we will see a few more games in the Westmoreland League, as much for the surroundings as the football.

Pickering Town v Tadcaster Albion, Saturday 1st January 2022, 3pm

January 10, 2022

I like to try and combine going to games with something else and Pickering seemed an ideal location to go for a pre-match walk. Rather than spend some time looking for a suitable route I took the easy option of just going to Dalby Forest Park as it had a load of paths marked on it and I figured that we could just wander along one of those.

That was exactly as it turned out, although as all but one of the paths were mountain biking trails, there was no need for any difficult choices. We didn’t see much at all in the way of wildlife but it made for a pleasant morning out in the fresh air.

Pickering is a town that I’m reasonably familiar with as when my kids were small I used to bring them to a fishing lake on the edge of town. It was marketed as ‘fun fishing’, the fun being that it was so overstocked that you would catch a fish with just about every cast. We would head down after school and return an hour or so later with a bag of trout that had been gutted and cleaned for us.

We stopped for lunch just outside of Pickering and then parked up with half an hour or so to spare. It wasn’t the warmest of days and Jen was keen for a seat in the covered stand where she could more easily cover her legs with a blanket. With rain forecast I wasn’t going to argue with that. Our early arrival worked well and after paying the eight quid admission we were soon settled into a small covered stand along the side of the pitch.

There were also covered stands behind both of the goals, but I think we got the better of the deal.

I was sat next to a bloke who was filling in a sheet on a clipboard. I took a sneaky peek whenever I could and concluded that he was the referee assessor. It was a time-consuming task with him appearing to have to score everything the ref was involved in. It meant that he spent most of the match looking downwards rather than being able to take in everything that was going on.

For what it is worth, I thought the ref had a good game. I’ve no real idea on how often he made the right call, but he was confident and decisive and that counts for a lot. Mind you I’ve worked with some right chancers over the years who were just like that so maybe there is a bit more to it.

The game was in the Northern Premier League East Division which is the league directly above the Northern League and the one that Stockton currently play in. Pickering, in blue, were taking on Tadcaster, in white. Both teams were near the bottom of the table and the home fans weren’t confident of avoiding relegation.

I’d been hoping to watch a couple of Boro youngsters who had been on loan at Pickering but they seemed to have vanished. One of them didn’t appear to have even played during his spell at the club.

The pitch was unusual in that there was a slope about two thirds of the way across from us. It ran the length of the field but wasn’t gradual. The pitch started off flat, dropped down a metre or so and then levelled off again. I imagine that when playing a pass you would have to gauge the way the slope would impact upon it in the way a golfer would when lining up a putt.

The first half was a bit niggly with a few yellows but no real chances and the teams went in level at the break.

The game came to life on the hour when an unexpected Pickering shot from distance flew in. It looked as if Pickering would see the game out until two minutes from time when the home keeper, who was making his debut on loan from Darlo, had his clearance charged down to allow a Tadcaster equalizer. It was a shame for the kid as he’d had a decent game. His blushes were spared in injury time though when one of his teammates cut inside from the right and finished well for the winner.

Three points for Pickering against their relegation rivals and a decent day out to start the New Year.

Haltwhistle Jubilee v North Shields Athletic, Saturday 30th October 2021, 2.30pm

November 6, 2021

On the way up to Glasgow the previous week Jen and I had driven past Haltwhistle and it struck me as somewhere that would be good to combine a game with a bit of a walk. It didn’t need to stay in my thoughts for long as a fixture in the eleventh tier Northern Alliance Premier League the following week soon brought us back.

We drove a couple of miles outside of town and parked up at Cawfield Quarry, close to Milecastle 42 of Hadrian’s Wall. We had set off later than intended and so only had two hours or so, but an hour walking eastwards along the wall and then another hour back again was a very pleasant pre-match activity.

Jen and I had walked the wall around ten years ago but I’ve no recollection of this particular part. I doubt that it has changed much so it’s more likely my failing memory. I’m tempted to do the walk again as a refresher, but this time in the other direction.

There had been some doubt as to whether Haltwhistle Jubilee’s fixture with North Shields Athletic would take place. There had been heavy rain the day before but the result of a mid-morning pitch inspection at their Burns Field pitch was tweeted to confirm that it was on.

It was free to get in with any revenue for Haltwhistle coming from the sale of programmes at a pound-fifty a pop. I know they sold at least twenty-nine as that was the winning number for a bottle of wine.  Even if that was the full extent of sales that’s not bad from a crowd that I counted as sixty-six people and four dogs. That crowd figure may have included some of the management teams, but I didn’t count the bloke watching from his garden that the beagle kept baying at. After a while that fella very kindly hid behind a tree to keep the noise down.

The Northern Alliance Premier is a diverse league. This setting wasn’t far off Sunday league with no stands whatsoever. In contrast Newcastle Blue Star have been attracting four-figure gates with many of their fans taking tables in hospitality. I doubt that Haltwhistle would meet the necessary ground standards for promotion to the Northern League, but I could see Blue Star moving beyond that level very easily.

Haltwhistle Jubilee were in blue with North Shields Athletic in red. The hosts opened the scoring with a well-worked goal in the first half. That increased the level of abuse from someone that I assumed was associated with Shields and who kept wandering on to the pitch. The ref didn’t have it easy as he was effectively on his own with his linesmen being co-opted from the subs for each team.

In the second half the abuse increased and one bloke was made to go and stand ten yards further along the touchline. He was also the fella that won the bottle of wine in the programme draw, but I doubt that he’d had time to drink it all by then.

Jubilee doubled their lead with a well-planted header. We had a bit of late drama when Athletic subbed their keeper for no apparent reason and he sulkily made his way along the touchline. The new goalie didn’t concede and it finished two-nil to Haltwhilstle.

Whitby Fisherman’s Society v Great Ayton Royals United, Saturday 18th September 2021, 1.45pm

October 3, 2021

Jen and I had stayed in Scarborough overnight for a Duran Duran gig. They are Jen’s band not mine but as she attends so much stuff that’s primarily of interest to me I was happy to go along. As it happens, I had a good time. The open-air theatre works well for gigs on dry days, I had a few drinks and they played their only half-decent song, so fair enough, I’d do it again.

It also meant that we could tick off a bit more of the Cleveland way and we spent the Friday afternoon walking from Scarborough to Cayton Bay and back along the clifftops.

Being over in the Scarborough area meant that we could drive back to Teesside along the coast past Whitby and on to Lythe. Mulgave Community Sports Club in Lythe is where the Whitby Fisherman’s Society play their home games in the North Riding League East, which is the twelfth tier in the pyramid. They had a home game on the Saturday and so I picked that as my game for the weekend.

There was a modern looking cricket pavilion with the football pitch adjoining the fenced off cricket square. Nobody was taking anything for admission as Jen and I arrived a couple of minutes after the quarter to two kick-off. We were just in time to see visitors Great Ayton go one up through a free kick that the home goalie stood little chance with.

I had a chat with a Great Ayton fan and he was able to confirm that Whitby were the team in blue with Great Ayton in black and white. He also reckoned that his team were struggling these days and the quality of the players had slipped in the last year or two. I could see what he meant. Some players had a decent touch but others looked like they had only recently taken up the game, perhaps as an alternative to gym membership.

There was a large grassy bank to one side of the pitch and as there was nowhere to sit on any of the other sides we moved to the top of the hill and sat up there. I wasn’t quite West Stand Upper but we had a view of the sea to our left and countryside in every other direction. I counted up the attendance from our lofted vantage point and I‘d say that there were twenty-two people watching who weren’t there in an official capacity.

Great Ayton were reduced to ten men after twenty minutes when a flying tackle sparked a melee that just about everyone joined at one point. The ref was in a difficult position in that neither linesman was neutral and therefore couldn’t be relied upon. Furthermore, his own fitness wasn’t the best and so he rarely strayed from the centre circle. Whatever the merits of the tackle, order was restored with a red and, I think, a couple of yellows.

Great Ayton reorganized and managed to hold on to their one goal advantage at the break. With the cricket pavilion being a hundred yards or so away most players stayed by the side of the pitch at half-time. One nipped up to the bushes behind us for a piss. There seemed no real reason to drag out the re-start and within five or six minutes of the half-time whistle the second half had commenced.

The second half had the same fractious manner as the first with both teams disputing everything. I think if I’d have been the ref I’d have just cleared off. As the game went on Whitby got more desperate, throwing their goalie up for the last couple of minutes. I love to see that, but on this occasion it didn’t work and the visitors took the points.

Chertanovo Women v Yenisey Women, Saturday 22nd May 2021, 4pm

May 26, 2021

This game came about through the new ground-hopping app which surprisingly revealed that there was a football ground with a match scheduled no more than four kilometres from our apartment.  I think the reason that I hadn’t twigged before is that it was Chertanovo women. I’ve seen their men’s team play a couple of times at Sportivny Gorodok in Luzhniki park and I suppose I had just assumed that the women would play at the same ground.

With the ground being so close it made sense to walk it, particularly as we could follow a route that took us through Serebryanyye Rodniki. I’m always amazed by how many areas of parkland or forest are within the Moscow area. Although I was the same about London when I lived there thirty-five years ago.

Serebryanyye Rodniki didn’t have much wildlife. I caught a glimpse of a squirrel heading up a tree a fair distance ahead and there were a few interesting looking birds, but the combination of the camera auto-focusing on nearby branches and my shaky hands meant that any photos were invariably too blurry to use.

There were plenty of dogs though, mostly on leads. I understood why when we spotted the ‘lost dog’ posters. Perhaps the lure of the forest was too much for them.

We spent a couple of hours walking through the woods. It was longer than I’d planned as I misread the directions on my phone and at the time when we should have been heading for the ground I was confidently striding out in the opposite direction.

One of the things that are fairly common in Moscow parks are home-made bird feeders. Some of them look like school projects and probably won’t last the week but others are more substantial. The squirrels probably have a circuit established for nipping in and scoffing whatever has been left inside.

We arrived at the Chertanovo Arena bang on time for kick-off but were delayed a few minutes by the temperature check, airline-style scanning, pat down and the insistence that we swig the cans of coke that we had with us before going in. It all seemed well over the top to me. I’m not sure what trouble there has been in the Women’s Supreme Division in the past but I doubt that a middle-aged couple would pose much of a threat.

Once inside we found seats in the only available stand which was opposite the dugouts. A further security measure required that we watch the game through netting and with posts and hoardings further restricting the view.

We sat at the back of the three rows of seats in the stand temporarily managing to keep out of the sun. As the half progressed and the sun got lower we found ourselves squinting and the view deteriorating by the minute.

Home side Chertanovo were taking on Yenisey. We’d seen the visitors get a pasting from CSKA last month and on that occasion they’d played in white. This time they had red kit with Chertanovo playing in white.

There were about sixty spectators including a dozen or so making a racket in support of the home side. The drummer missed a beat on one occasion to whack the bloke next to him. I presume it was to encourage him to sing.

Yenisey took an early lead and played some good, fast-passing football. Chertanovo equalized with a shot that went through the visiting keepers legs. I know that commenting on the poor quality of keepers in the women’s game is a bit of a lazy cliché but the Yenisey goalie looked dodgy the last time I saw her and she was equally at sea in this game missing crosses, clattering defenders and generally causing jitters whenever she was called upon. A bit like me when I played. I don’t see her lasting long at this level.

It was one each at the break and with the sun shining directly into our eyes I had little appetite for viewing the remaining 45 minutes. We negotiated security for the second time and caught a cab into town for our tea at a Korean barbecue place. A check the next morning revealed that Yenisey took the points with a 3-2 win.

Berwick Rangers v Caledonian Braves, Saturday 28th December 2019, 3pm

March 15, 2020

Jen and I needed to nip up to Edinburgh to put in a visa application and whilst we could have stayed there, or I suppose, driven straight back, we decided to draw out our journey back to Teesside with a night in Dunbar and another in Berwick.

We didn’t see much of Dunbar on the evening that we arrived, spending the time sampling Belhaven’s products in the bar of our hotel, but next morning we took a hike along the John Muir Way to Barns Ness Lighthouse and back. The route followed the coast and skirted a golf course for a lot of the way. There wasn’t much in the way of wildlife, apart from a goose with a damaged wing, but it was great to be out in the fresh air for a few hours.

It was a short drive from Dunbar to Berwick and after dropping off Jen and the car at our guest house I had a wander up to Shielfield Park for Berwick Rangers’ game with Caledonian Braves. Whilst a year ago I’d have been watching the only English team in the Scottish League, this year I would be watching the only English team in the fifth tier Scottish Lowland League after Berwick’s relegation last season.

Shielfield Park dates back to 1954, when Berwick shifted from their previous stadium on the adjacent land. It is also home to the Berwick Bandits speedway team which makes for a somewhat distant view of the pitch. At least there wasn’t a fence obscuring the view.

After paying a tenner to get in and another pound for a raffle ticket, I got myself a cup of tea and found a spot in the main stand that I think had been bought second hand from Bradford. With the stanchions it wasn’t possible to get an un-obscured view but I managed to find a seat that allowed me to see both goalmouths.

On the other side of the pitch was covered terracing and to my right a small enclosure about the size of a bus stop for travelling fans. There was also a club shop that was selling what I overheard one fan describe as the relegation shirt.

At 2.59 the teams ran on to the pitch. There was none of the pre-match handshaking and they went straight to their positions. The toss took place and within ten seconds of the ref confirming that the players didn’t need to switch ends the game had started. Brilliant. If I’m ever sentenced to be hanged I want the Scottish FA and this ref to officiate. I reckon I’d go from swigging a final diet coke in my cell to being cut down from the gallows before I’d had time to put the top back on my drink. The ref further enhanced his reputation during the afternoon, in my eyes anyway, by booking at least three players for booting the ball away after he’d blown for a foul.

One of the home players went down injured early on prompting the fella behind me to speculate that it might have been with a dislocated shoulder. He related that on noticing previously that the player in question hadn’t been seen for a couple of weeks, either on the pitch or in the Red Lion, he’d phoned him at home to be told from the horse’s mouth about his poorly shoulder.

The teams were wearing the same colours as I’d seen in last week’s game between West Auckland and Penrith, namely yellow and black for Berwick and red for Caledonian Braves. These players looked a bit fuller in figure than their Northern League counterparts but I suppose with one game taking place four days before Christmas and the other three days after then perhaps there’s a good reason for that.

Berwick took the lead ten minutes before half-time when Osei broke down the left and shot powerfully enough for it to squeeze under the visiting keeper. The scorer was from Swaziland, although Berwick had picked him up after he had been released by Raith Rovers, rather than having scouted him themselves playing for Langley Zebras.

At half time I joined the queue at the food place. They’d sold out of pies and burgers before the game having only put on a limited supply due to expectations of a low crowd. They had some soup though, Christmas soup apparently, made of turkey and vegetables put through a blender. It was very nice, athough I did wonder if it had just been made from the scrapings from people’s plates.

There only seemed to be two ball boys and they stood together behind one of the goals. They’d been criticised in the first half by people in the crowd for spending their time looking at their phones. Second half they had found a football and were equally criticised for booting it around. The paused their private game however when a subbed player went past them on his long trek around the pitch perimeter and then got their phones out again to have him pose for a selfie.

There were a few chances at either end but nobody took them and the final whistle blew to a collective cheer from the home fans for the one goal win.