Surplus Long Balls

Match report by BILLY'S CONTRACT at Meadow Lane

Notts Co 2 Pools 1 (League 2) Saturday March 11th 2017

Apart from previous football trips to Forest and County in the distant past I had never actually set foot in the the City of Nottingham itself. In truth apart from The Football, Cricket, Maid Marian, Nottingham Lace, The Sheriff, John Players, the Castle and a chap called Robin, I knew very little about the place.

With that in mind I did some prior research ahead of my trip, and decided that on the day of the match I would set off early and take in some of the wonders of that City. My intention was to park up at the Phoenix Park park and ride, and tram it in to the city centre. However due to a technical malfunction, that of keying in the incorrect post code, as well as taking the first right instead of a second right I ended up doing a circular around Nottingham Castle on what looked like a private road. Previously I have seen double yellow lines and double red lines but never blue. (Poolie in Nottingham might be able to enlighten us all on that one). It could have possibly meant no Poolie parking.

With that, even though I was not far from County's ground (It was their post code that I had inadvertently keyed in to my satnav instead of the park and ride's), I turned the car around and headed back through the congestion I had previously sought to avoid and ended up in 'Forest' park and ride car park which was a bit misleading as the City ground was near enough a mile away.

 After enjoying a mug of tea and a corned beef sarnie of the highest order (no one can put together corn dog between two slices of bread like my housekeeper - I would have it for my Christmas day dinner!), I boarded a tram and was whisked into the impressive market square in no time at all.

A Council House - Nottingham style!   photo © Neil Turner / Flickr / CC
Bang slap right at one end of the square, fronted by numerous fountains is the 200 foot high Neo Baroque* multi colonnaded, domed, grade 2 listed building made from Portland stone which is a cross between the presidential White House in Washington and the Co-op building in Hartlepool (The one on Park Road and not the one in Northgate), which I discovered is called The Council House. I have seen some impressive council houses in my time (although it is probably an ex-council house - the one with all the beer cans on its external brickwork in Raby Road springs to mind) but this one was the daddy of them all. If that was the Council House I would love to see what the private housing stock looked like.

The Market square had a European feel to it - trams running around, people sitting outside eating (though they might have been evicted), quality street ('scuse pun) entertainers and generally clean with very little litter strewn about. The only things that let the area down were the odd 1960's style office blocks dotted about here and there.

As my tea had run its course I decided on a visit to McDonalds. as their toilets, bar the ones in New York, are generally clean. I did not have to look far as I saw a directional sign which read "toilets 200M". I could not believe that McDonalds had 200 outlets in the City. [ And I can't believe you left that joke in - Ed]

I am unable to recall the last time I had a meal in McDonalds, certainly not since 2006 when I was fined £40 for having parked for more than an hour in their car park at Wolviston, so I don't feel guilty about using their loos. Call it pay back time. I call them McToilets.

Unsure of the whereabouts of the ground I asked a fellow Poolie who was sat down in one of attractive pedestrian areas just off the square.The directions he gave were so precise I asked if he lived in Nottingham. No, it was his first time here but he had gleaned the information beforehand from his I-Pad thingy.

Having reached Meadow Lane quite quickly I had plenty of time to kill so I wandered around the old cattle market area next to the ground and I stumbled across the most amazing Army and Navy Stores I have ever seen. Elmo had previously told me about it but seeing was believing. It was more like a munitions dump than an Army and Navy stores and would have kept a small army in provision for several months.

 As I walked into the yard there was a small jet engine (Possibly from a V1 rocket or De Havilland Vampire mark two) and sited next to it was a white barrack room metal bunk bed and various items of camouflage netting.  I was very tempted to purchase a thermo-nuclear device that was on display but I had been warned beforehand that the stewards at Notts County were normally pretty thorough and carried out searches prior to admission into the ground, so I gave that one a miss(ile).

It was shortly after that I met up with Elmo and 'H', who pulled up a few yards from me in their dashing blue car, gaining the last parking space in the cattle market. Had they parked another ten feet further forward their car bonnet would have been wedged in the home end turnstile.

In search of alcoholic stimulation we made our way to a pub which we saw in the distance. Only snag was it meant negotiating a mega-busy dual carriageway. Whilst we were waiting for a break in the traffic we met up with a couple of other Poolies who had had the same idea but had all but given up as they had spent the previous twenty five minutes trying to cross the road. (Why did the Poolie cross the road?) With no break in the traffic looking likely we agreed that there was safety in numbers and it was now time to deploy our cunning plan. As a group we all closed our eyes and made a dash for it.

Luckily, no casualties, but little did we know at the time that that was to be the only excitement that we were going to enjoy for the rest of the afternoon. Unfortunately when we got to the other side and reached the watering hole, the extremely nice but apologetic bouncer would not let us gain entry due to a no-away-fans policy. I am sure if he witnessed our efforts crossing that dual carriageway he would have brought us all into the pub for a drink.

To his credit he gave us directions to another pub on the 'Forest' side of the Trent, the downside being that we would have to cross the road again.  Prior to writing out our last wills and testaments one of our group spotted this box which was attached to a post and if you pressed a button a green man would appear on a light and the traffic would suddenly stop, allowing one to cross the road. I still can't understand how we missed that the first time round. We must have been too focussed on our pursuit of alcoholic gratification.

Sat outside the pub almost on Trent Bridge itself, enjoying a very acceptable pint of Ghost blonde, one could view how close together or 'near' apart both Forest's and County's grounds are sited. It is only the river that separates them and if ever there was a case for ground sharing this is it.

Perhaps they could merge and be renamed Nottingham City. Just playing devil's advocate there! I for one would not want this to to happen for so many reasons. For instance, which club would be able to have 'The Town's Club' on their badge. (This was just to wind any Forest/County fans who might be reading it).

We then went to the match and afterwards said our goodbyes and I jumped aboard the mega-efficient (delayed by 5 minutes due to an incident!) tram service back to the park and ride. Due to my disappointment on the footballing front, firstly with the performance and then secondly the result, I actually skipped calling in at Wetherby for the first time ever for fish and chips and made do with a fish finger bun when I got home. Mind, on the plus side they were Waitrose fish fingers - double the size and double the price of the German-produced Birdseye nonsense. Mind I did wash it down with some German weisse bier.

For those who are interested, here is a detailed match report:
Notts County are a poor team lacking in confidence whom Pools did not push with any conviction. County were there for the taking big time as many other teams hopefully will do in the future on Pools' behalf.
"Both teams were playing long balls to their front men - Pools as usual not winning any."

Thanks to a penalty save by Fryer we went in at half time nils apiece, hoping for better things in the second half. County had sussed out rookie full back Kenton Richardson and most of their attacking play came down his side of the pitch.

Both teams were playing long balls to their front men - Pools as usual not winning any. One of County's fell to Ameobi who brushed off ad hoc centre half Featherstone for strength and pace and put the ball beyond Fryer whom I thought could have done better.
County's second goal was a stunner. From a Pools clearance after a corner Grant, who was not closed down, rifled in from 25 yards, giving Fyrer no chance.

In the last 15 minutes Pools got a scrappy equaliser thanks to a Thomas shot which created an own goal. This should have inspired Pools and put County on the rack but much like the first half, anytime that they got into an attacking position they either did not know what to do with the ball (Alessandra being the worst culprit), or they continually passed the ball backwards allowing County to get back into a defensive position. On one occasion a promising attack ended up with the ball back in Fryers hands instead of the back of Notts County's net.  

Dave Jones's tactics must also be questioned, with too many long balls and no one in midfield. The service to Thomas in the first half was non-existent and he was more of a wing back rather than a winger. Rangers, Leeds and Birmingham City are supposed to have Nathan Thomas on their radars and are prepared to pay three quarter of a million pounds for him. Technically Pools have a player on the pitch worth £750,000 so why on earth did he not see the ball for long periods of the match.

Of all the current relegation candidates that we have to play away from home, Notts County would have been the team that I'd have expected to gain points from. I sincerely hope that I am wrong but unless things improve dramatically on the away front I cannot see Pools picking up points at Cheltenham, Morecambe or Orient, nor indeed from any other away ground this season for that matter.

Pools' survival will be down to home form or rivals losing form, or having points deducted (Orient), or other teams beating our rivals. League survival might only be partially in Pools' hands. GET IT SORTED NOW.

*  Don't worry folks, I am not an architectural guru, I Googled that bit of info.

Security notice: My main concern at the match was not so much the result but the fact that the editor and former editor of Monkey Business, along with a current contributor of this magazine were all sat in the same stand together.  To quote Alan Partridge they were all "a soft target for a terrorist hit squad".

Thankfully they all took the precaution of taking different routes home and did not travel together in the same blue vehicle.