Two weeks without a game and my plans for today also get the matrimonial kybosch as the wife wants a night out with her work chums and I’m on kid-sitting duty (as I type this, in fact). I had intended a day’s drinking in the Bury St Edmunds area, taking in Bury Town v Nuneaton Town. Instead, it’s the short(ish) car journey to Newcastle Under Lyme and a dip into Level 9 – the North West Counties (Vodkat) Premier.
I park up at the ground a good two hours before kick-off so decide to stroll into the town centre to a pub called The Museum. I’d definitely like a night in here – it’s a throw-back to when I first started drinking in a Life On Mars era … working-class blokes, pints, bad language, pub games, more pints. Everything except for the smoke. Fortunately, I don’t miss that. I have a swift half of Pedigree – nectar!
Approaching the ground I hear a whistle and lots of guys shouting – have they kicked off early? No, it’s just the ruggerbums on adjacent pitches getting stuck in. I like Rugby. I don’t understand the rules, but I still like it.
Entrance to the splendidly-entitled Lyme Valley Parkway stadium is a modest £5.50 plus one and a half for the prog. This is a well-laid out affair, with much of the usual fodder but at least properly type-set. Somebody has put some effort in. On entering the ground I can see why it looked so weird on Google Maps – what I thought was a running track is actually a cycle velodrome, which runs around the pitch. And it works – everybody gets some kind of an elevated view of the on-pitch action, and there’s no need of ball boys, as an errant pass simply rolls back towards the thrower after going out of play.
There’s the cutest little grandstand I’ve seen for a long while (Marlow excepted) and what looks like a garden shed that’s been converted into an executive box. Across the pitch there’s a covered terrace which makes up for in length what it lacks in depth. The club house is below sea level and has the Flynn requirements of Big Screen Live Footy AND real ale. The steward says he shifts lots, especially when there’s two or three games in a week. My glass of Bombadier is splendid. And there’s another plus. The well-stocked snack shop has Cheese & Onion Pies made by local firm Wrights! plus burgers, bacon, chips and the usual staple.
The game itself is between high-flying Newcastle and mid-table Bacup Borough. The home team contrive to miss a hat-ful of good chances – including a penalty – and can have no complaints about losing two-nil, the first scored by a familiar looking fella called Giggs (Rhodri, the not-quite-so-good brother of Ryan).
Today’s floodlight pylon count is err well , three plus a TV mast which completes the quartet.