Monday, 19 October 2015

18/10/15 Review: Worcester City vs Nuneaton Town

Worcester City 0-1 Nuneaton Town (National League North)
Aggborough


Here we go again! Just 24-hours after Pint of Football and Partizan Bristle took our places inside Marston Road, home of Stafford Rangers, we were now located in the Wyre Forest district of Worcestershire. On normal occasions I stick to the guideline that any drive to a football ground that is longer than an actual game is not one to risk venturing out for, however on this occasion it was necessary to commute to find us some non-league Sunday afternoon football. After leaving my house in Stoke-on-Trent at 1pm, I arrived in Kidderminster at 2:45pm for my first National League North match at the Harriers National League Premier ground, Aggborough. Following some horrendous M6 traffic, I feared that my fellow Blogger from Partizan Bristle wouldn't make it in his old purple KA, aka Velma, and so when I parked up at the car park outside the ground, I began to bite my nails in anticipation of his arrival. I bought my ticket, entered the ground and awaited his phone call.
Traffic was so bad on the way that I managed to eat a Spring Roll whilst looking at Walsall's ground
At 2:58pm my phone rang and sure enough he had made it in with 2 minutes to spare. In the meantime, I had quickly had a wander around yet another stunning lower-league ground and was again highly impressed by the cracking fan base present at the game. I met Tom and we ran up to the Aggborough Suite to grab a programme, as we were too late to buy them in the usual spot. Following this purchase, plus another scarf bought for Tom, we took a seat at the front and joined the rest of the ground who had already witnessed a couple of minutes of play. Upon studying the programme I realised that one of the strikers on the Nuneaton bench was one of my favourites from watching the Premiership as a youngster. None other than former West Ham goal-getter Marlon Harewood was sitting just a few meters away. Just nine years ago he was scoring the winner for the Hammers against Arsenal and now he is on the Nuneaton substitutes bench, talk about a fall from grace. I had already noted before the game that another favourite of mine from years gone by, Deon Burton, was in the mix for today's game. Having played in the World Cup Finals for Jamaica in 1998 and also spending 5 years in the Premier League with Derby County, it was like looking back in time to some of the greats.

Let's go Burton, let's go!
Worcester City had struggled so far this season and found themselves in 18th place in the league. They had managed two wins on the spin against Corby Town and FC United of Manchester, but these were the only league wins they had achieved in 10 games. Nuneaton on the other hand were up in 7th and knew that a win today would propel them into the play-off's. Baring this in mind I predicted a low-scoring draw, 0-0 or 1-1, hopefully with Burton and Harewood rolling back the years to get the goals. It was also worth noting that Worcester's top-scorer, former Baggies striker and jailbird, Lee Hughes, was unavailable for the home side this afternoon and that would certainly be a big miss for The Blues. Back on the pitch, both sides had started fairly well and there was some decent build-up play already on display. Whilst still taking in the sights, I must take a direct quote from Tom, a Bristol Rovers fan, who wasn't ashamed to say that "this ground is better than the mem", whilst also saluting the layout of the terraces. It is such a shame that the clubs who play at this ground are in financial peril, meaning that this ground may not stand the test of time.
Plenty of folk out on a Sunday afternoon- always nice to see
From what I had seen so far it was clear to see that Robert Duffy, the big man up top, was going to be key to the game. He overpowered the defenders and wasn't scared to run around, which was quite a surprise for such a big lad. And speaking of big lads, it seemed that we had plonked ourselves right in front of the Blue's resident crazy fan- a very large man who felt the need to state the obvious, shout the controversial and rant out-loud at any possible time. Once the Worcester lads had gathered a bit of momentum and fired a shot wide, he began to loudly shout-out his thoughts on what was to most of the ground a good move. "Come on lads, play some football!" was the phrase used on this occasion, but there were many more to follow.


The crazy fan of the ground, not to be confused for a small second-head on my right shoulder
The game remained evenly poised and neither team looked likely to score in the first 45. Despite some good passages of play, the crossing from both teams was absolutely woeful and although Daniel Nti made some great runs to the byline, his quality of crossing left much to be desired. The crossing certainly wasn't the worst thing in this match though, in fact the crossing was sensational if you are comparing it against the performance of the afternoon's referee, Darren Strain. In the first-half he made some very odd calls, with most fans barely believing their eyes as fouls were given "advantages" in places that were of no advantage, 50/50 Challenges were given as fouls very often against the home side and most obviously, there was no sign of the foul throws being punished. The crazy fan behind was going mental at this point, I wish I could remember what he was saying. At this time I did however notice that the right-backs for both teams looked like twins, another non-league feature which seems to be quite common- bald, short right-backs who try to play like Danny Mills. Deon Burton squandered a final opportunity and before we knew it half-time was upon us. As we stood up to head to the bar, we both spoke our short summary of the game. I was not impressed with the match, but Tom seemed quite happy with what he'd seen so far. We made it into the Aggborough Suite in time for me to have a half-time pint, which I sipped from the wonderful clubhouse view whilst watching Harewood warming-up as the only player without a hi-vis bib on- he don't play by nobody's rules.


The Aggborough Suite was top notch
As Tom wasn't drinking on this fine weekend, he instead decided to try out the food which was on display. Even though I didn't have any, as I brought myself a packed lunch like a true hardcore fan, I was absolutely in awe of the selection. From Lasagne to Steak and Kidney Pies, from Chilli Con Carne to Bangers & Mash, it was like looking at a menu of my favourite meals. Tom hastily grabbed a Steak and Kidney, with a fresh puff-pastry lid- TRULY AMAZING! 


The greatest football food ever seen
If there is anything to be jealous of when you have cold sausage rolls in your lunch box, it is the luscious smell and phenomenal appearance of proper food. Tom was in heaven, whilst I was asking for mouth-by-mouth analysis of the pie. As the second-half kicked off, Harewood carried on his warm-up quite near to our seat, which I suspected was so that he could be near the pie smell too. As a fan of the former Premier League striker, I called out "Marlon!" as he walked past, but there was no reaction. Tom and I were going to shout out "Marlon, give us a wave. Marlon, Marlon give us a wave.", but without the assistance of alcohol I was limited to just calling out his name. The second-half offered a similar start to the first, with neither team seeming to re-shape too much from the break. We knew that the changes would be due soon enough, as more players joined in with the warm-ups. However, the changing point of the game came soon before this. A controversial free-kick was handed to Nuneaton for a suspected dive, to which the fans were surprisingly accepting. The free-kick was hit against the wall inside the box and within seconds the ref blew his whistle for what we could only assume would be a retake. Wrong! The ref had called for a Nuneaton penalty and the crowd finally turned to outrage.


Even Marlon was shocked by the chain of bad decisions
Needless to say it was Duffy who stepped-up to a chorus of booing from the crowd. This didn't dissuade him from slotting home though, meaning that City were behind. City 0-1 Borough. From this point, the Blues had to rally themselves and do all they could to avoid another home defeat that would lead them closer to the relegation spots. Burton tried to run at the Borough defence, bursting into the box and almost bagging an equaliser. This was followed by a run from Nti, who was pushed over just outside the box, to which the ground appealed for a free-kick and offered Mr.Strain the chance to redeem himself. Alas, he instead chose to book Nti for a dive and then following arguments from the players, City's Geddes was red carded for dissent. Despite starting the game as a neutral, I was outraged at the amount of decisions going against the home team and therefore started to shout-out for them to get back into it. 10-man Worcester kept on plugging though, forcing as much into the box as they could and in the 65th minute when a ball was flapped into the box by City, the Keeper claimed the ball and surprise surprise the whistle was blown yet again. Nobody seemed to know what had gone on, but it had appeared that a Nuneaton man had pushed an opponent inside the box. Surely enough Mr.Strain sent the Nuneaton player off, making it 10-all on the player count, and therefore City would be offered a penalty to equalise. Wrong again! Nuneaton, who had just fouled in the box AND had a player sent off for it, had now been awarded a free-kick for an infringement on their goalkeeper before the foul. I think through the confusion of the last few minutes, the fans were too baffled to even know whether they were angry or not. Either way, they didn't seem too bothered.
Seeing Marlon Harewood play for Nuneaton Borough was a "Pint of Football Moment" for sure
The goalscorer for Nuneaton, who to me had been a good attacking threat, was then dropped into the centre-back position to allow Marlon a run-out. Duffy dropped to the defence and was actually a rock at the heart of the defensive play of Borough- easily the Man of the Match for me. The flow of the game stayed pretty much the same, with some chances for either side and not much more to separate the two sides. When injury-time came about, City won a corner and a final chance to snatch something from the game. The 700+ fans started to roar as goalie Nathan Vaughan came up for the kick. It was swung in from the right and surely enough Vaughan jumped up for a solid header, which was just tipped over the bar from the keeper. Following the next corner, the game was ended by super-villain Darren Strain and it was 3 more points for the Borough.


6 Yellows, 2 Reds, a Penalty and so much more controversy- Aggborough, it's been a pleasure 
Following the matches end, most fans stuck around to hurl abuse at the referee, with us being included in the hurling. After watching a truly great display from Lisa Rashid as ref for Stafford's match the day before, today was a massive contrast and showed that not only is top-quality refereeing not dictated by gender, but it isn't dictated by how high up in the league system you are. We left the ground with the morale of today's story being "Refereeing is often bad, unless it is terrible." and with that me and Tom went our separate ways. What a weekend of football for Pint of Football and Patizan Bristle, which included Spurs vs Liverpool on TV, Stafford Rangers vs Rugby live, an all-nighter of FIFA with Carlisle United and concluding with a trip to Kidderminster. As Tom headed back to Bristol and I drove back to Stoke, I was already thinking about the next footy-filled weekend, whenever and wherever it is that we end up visiting next.

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