A Trip To St James Park Awaits Us (No, Not That One)

By 5pm on Saturday (September 26), our allegiance once again had shifted. Our Quest team Lincoln United were beaten by divisional rivals Rugby Town in a humdinger of a game at Rugby’s plush little Butlin Road ground.

It means that we jump over to Rugby Town, and follow them to Northamptonshire side Brackley Town in the Third Qualifying Round, after the draw was made at Wembley on Monday, September 28.

In glorious autumn sunshine, Rugby took the lead on 18 minutes when Callum Powell latched onto a neat flick and dinked the ball over the onrushing Lincoln keeper, Sam Vince.

It looked all over midway through the second half when Rugby doubled their lead. Some patient play around the United box resulted in Danny Clifton sweeping the ball home for number two. But 12 minutes later United were given a lifeline when a floated ball by Jack McGovern eluded everyone including Niall Cooper between the sticks and nestled in the far corner. 2-1 now, and Lincoln we’re going for it.

But any hopes of a Lincoln revival – and any hopes of us carrying United through to the next round – were distinguished five minutes from time when Rugby netted a third from a corner. The ball was whipped in and met by Mason Rowley, whose powerful header was flicked in by David Kolodynski.

United did bundle home a controversial consolation (I think the claim was that McGovern used his hand to jab the ball home) but it was literally the last kick (hand) of the game.

Rugby now travel to Brackley, their old foes from the Southern League. It’ll be Valley’s 4th tie in the Emirates FA Cup this season, having already beaten Coventry Sphinx, Ilkeston and now Lincoln United.

In contrast, due to their higher standing in the non-league pyramid (Vanarama National League North), Brackley’s first tie in the competition was a 3-1 win over Tooting & Mitcham.

So we say goodbye to Lincoln United, whom we’ve followed since their victory over South Normanton Athletic in the Preliminary Round, and then onto the First Qualifying Round at Clipstone. Although the South Normanton game needed a reply in Lincoln, sadly we never got to visit their ground due to other commitments. But we leave them to carry on their season and wish them all the best.

For the record, I won the First Goal Scorer raffle (Callum Powell’s 18th-minute goal gifting me a cool £20) and the burgers are the best we’ve sampled so far. So thanks Rugby, and we’ll see you in Brackley.

More on that tie nearer the date.

Welcome

A warm welcome to Butlin Road

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Our view in the first half

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The shadowy main stand

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Behind the goal…

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…and the other end

Victory

Victory is Rugby’s

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Silverware

 

 

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Rugby World Cup? Nah, FA to do With This

The Rugby World Cup has generated a bit of excitement over the past week, but forget all that egg chucking because, although on Saturday we’ll be travelling to the home of the sport, it’s all about the round bag of wind again.

Our quest is taking us to Rugby, where, as legend would have it, in 1823, one William Webb Ellis of Rugby School was involved in a game of ‘English school football’ when he bizarrely picked up the ball and ran with it. This story is debatable, but the school are having none of the alternative genesis theories and have a plaque erected at the school. So there. And of course, the winners of the Rugby World Cup lift the William Webb Ellis trophy so 5 points to Rugby.

But by spoiling a perfectly good game of proper football and creating a new sport, Ellis, at least, did not tarnish the ‘Beautiful Game’ itself. And it’s played in Rugby and in very swanky settings. Swanky for non-league anyway.

Their Butlin Road ground, the host for the 2nd Qualifying Round tie with our side Lincoln United on Saturday (26th), has a capacity of 6,000, and boasts a 500-seater cantilever stand (opened in 2003 by Darius Vassell) and has covering on all four sides of the ground, with seating on two. In fact there are seats for 740 supporters, which might come in useful to me thanks to a bout of Cellulitis.

It also has the VB Bar, which I’m hoping stocks some decent real ale options for my lager-hating companion.

It should be a tight affair, as both clubs are on a level pegging in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League Division One South, although Rugby have just one win in nine and lie second bottom, while United have 3 in 8 and lie in 14th position. Both are still some way off of league leaders Stafford Rangers at this early stage.

Rugby’s start to the season has actually been somewhat turbulent, with the resignation of manager Gary Mills coming on September 11. Dale Belford has taken on the role of steadying the ship.

With a change of manager, it’s difficult to tell whether it’s a good or bad time to play them, although their last game was a 2-1 defeat away to Markey Drayton.

So while Rugby World Cup fever grips Britain, in its birth place on Saturday, it’ll be football that we’ll be concentrating on.

Eggchucking Country is Our Next Stop

As a result of ‘our team’ Lincoln United’s victory at Clipstone on Saturday, we now follow them to Rugby Town in the Second Qualifying Round on Saturday, September 26.

United played their part in an extremely open and entertaining game at Clipstone, a small former mining village near Mansfield in Nottinghamshire, in the First Qualifying Round on September 12.

Clipstone – a step beneath their opponents on the non-league pyramid – had started brightly, with their main threat coming from the Raheem Sterling-like presence of their number 10, Henry Sibenge. But, United took advantage of a slight slope just before half time when Paul Grimes curled in a shot from just outside the area.

That should have been the catalyst for more goals from United, and indeed they dominated much of the second half, with the threat of Clipstone’s number 10 clearly discussed at half time and hence thwarted. However, despite some good football by United, it was Clipstone who stole an equaliser totally against the run of play. A long ball fell into the path of substitute Alec Denton who did brilliantly not only to control the ball but to slot it past United’s keeper, who had had little to do prior to this stage.

After that, the game got interesting. Goal mouth scrambles, missed United chances and some robust challenges made for an exciting finish. And just when we thought a trip to Lincoln was on the cards for the replay, United were awarded a penalty.

All eyes were on Daniel Brooks as he took shape before thumping the ball past the Clipstone keeper.

It proved to be the winner, and so we follow United to Rugby a week on Saturday.

Actually they followed us to the Dog and Duck in King’s Clipstone just down the road, where the club and their fans both celebrated the win with a pint or two before heading off.

Clipstone can be proud of their display, and our brief stop with them was a pleasant one, even if the local wasps plagued us throughout, and made eating our half time hot dog and chips a real challenge.

Their ground is a small, old fashioned non-league ground, exactly what you’d expect from a team that used to be known as Clipstone Welfare. Rugby Town’s new-age Butlin Road ground is very different indeed, and there will be a few more fans in attendance than the 113 that came along on Saturday.

More on Rugby versus Lincoln United next week.

In Pictures

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Who Knows How We’ll Fare

That headline is a pretty poor attempt at a play on words. Our game today – on this soggy September Saturday – is in reference to Clipstone Welfare, a small Nottinghamshire-based club who play in the Northern Counties East League Premier. The headline fails due to The Cobras dropping the Welfare suffix in 2013, the club’s third name change since their inaugural title Clipstone Combine and then subsequent name Clipstone Boys Brigade. But what’s in a name anyway?

These days the club play in the 1,000 capacity, The Worksop Van Hire Stadium, near the major town of Mansfield; a stone’s throw from Sherwood Forest’s Center Parcs from where I’ve actually just returned from.

But Clipstone are simply our hosts for now. As a result of their win over our starting club, South Normanton Athletic, we’ve jumped ship to Evo-Stik First Division South side Lincoln United, who are one step above Clipstone on the confusing non-league pyramid.

Our patronage of United hasn’t gone unnoticed in Lincolnshire, either. Just last night I was live on BBC Radio Lincolnshire as part of Rob Makepiece’s Friday Football programme talking about our quest and discussing how I might follow United to Wembley. That of course is highly unlikely, as Rob knew when he posed the tongue in cheek comment.

But the fact he contacted me via Twitter at least proves that our quest is gaining a bit of interest. And who knows how far we can go with United? I may well be talking with Rob in a few week’s time. And a few weeks after that and so on and so on…

United We Stand

For the first time on our FA Cup Quest as we enter the First Qualifying Round stage, our allegiance shifts from the team we started with (South Normanton Athletic) to their victors, Lincoln United.

United, who are two steps further up the non-league pyramid than The Shiners, progressed to the next round thanks to a 2-1 win in the replay on Tuesday, September 1, with the original tie ending 1-1 at Athletic’s Lee’s Lane home.

In the end, the underdog was defeated, and with that we continue our quest with Lincoln United as they go to Notts side Clipstone in the next round on September 12.

Myself and my burger-munching companion, Mark, spent two enjoyable afternoons at Lee’s Lane, having a pint, watching good football and enjoying the banter from the crowd around us. Mark even collected a cool £40 quid from the prize draw on our first visit! And although we wave goodbye to them and wish them well for the season ahead, I’m sure it won’t be my last visit to Lee’s Lane, considering I only live 10 minutes away. They were very kind on Twitter, too…

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 Lincoln United also gave us a ‘big up’ with this Tweet:

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 Cheers United! We can now look forward to their game with Clipstone in just over a week’s time.