Saturday, 18 April 2015

Notes From The Popside #6

Third time lucky.

When the fixture list came out last July the first match I looked for was Torquay United at home against Lincoln City. A shame is was to be played in January, over halfway through the season but worth the wait. Or so I thought.
I have always kept an eye out for Lincoln City, try and see how they are fairing. A lot easier when they were stalwarts of Division 4 (aka Division 2), but now they are in the same league as Torquay United I can actually get to see them once a season. I used to go to Sincil Bank a lot when I was a youth. 9-12 years old, before booze and girls …. the last time I saw Lincoln City was in 1997 at Notts County ground, for a laugh my mates and I went in the "away end", can't remember the result but a Notts County fan did run on the pitch and twat the referee … oh how we laughed
The Lincoln match in January was postponed … Torquay United had progressed in some lower league cup so were now playing cup matches as priority. The match was re-arranged for a Tuesday evening in February. My son was a tad disappointed as the January match was part of his 9th birthday presents .. ah well (like the Queen) he can have two birthdays. The Tuesday night match suddenly became four days before a home match…a home match that was the second leg of the cup semi-final. Winner takes all and gets a game at Wembley. Just to make certain that this game was going ahead I 'phoned the club, asked about ticket prices (£14 for adult - £5 for youth) and if the match was going ahead - pitch was fine and playable according to the man at the end of the line.
We both arrived at 7.30pm on a cold and freezing night at Plainmoor to find the ground in darkness. All gates locked all shutters down. Lighting off and nobody to be seen. We walked around the ground twice, surely some "postponed" notice on a gate or post? No. Surely someone from the club or a steward to explain why Plainmoor was a ghost town? No. A chap outside the "Boots & Laces" pub told us "Match cancelled due to waterlogged pitch". Strange, because it hadn't rained for a couple of days and certainly not after my 'phone conversation with a club employee who said the pitch was perfect and playable. Conspiracy theories abound. At 1.30pm a referee from North Devon was contacted to "test the pitch" - not the match referee but an independent referee and he called the pitch "unplayable" so Torquay United called the game off - with Lincoln City supporters en route. They (simply) did not want any injuries before the semi-final.
Luckily Torquay United lost the semi-final against Wrexham and so missed out on a day at Wembley. We went to the Wrexham game. It was probably the worst game of football I have ever seen.
So third time lucky. Torquay United vs. Lincoln City Tuesday April 14. 7.45pm kick off.

For some inexplicable reason the price per adult had gone from £14 to £19. £19 for a grown man to watch this rubbish - no wonder attendances at Plainmoor are in decline. Champions League football was on TV. The programme was at a reduced price of £2 because it was the programme for the re-arranged match in February and completely out of date re-squad members. Still, it did have a history of Lincoln City FC that included a picture of the 1976 team. The Mighty Imps when Graham Taylor was the manager and Bert Loxley was the physio. I went to school with Bert's daughter, Julie. I also won a Graham Taylor award for being man of the match in some final I played at Sincil Bank - would have 1975 or 1976. Anyway.
The attendance on the night was announced at 1349 - more like 800. I counted 35 Lincoln City fans in the away end, I could have carried on around the ground but the match was on! The first half was a game of head tennis. It doesn't matter if the pitch is "unplayable" as Torquay United play 90% of their game in the air. Lincoln City did try and get the ball down and play on the ground - use the wings etc, but neither team had a shot on target in the first half.
Second half was more exciting, but perhaps that was because the night drew in and nothing quite beats a night match. Under the lights. This was Oscar's first night match .. he was excited. And then a member of the security team came over and told me he had been watching me on his CCTV and I was taking pictures … with MY CAMERA! Verboten at Plainmoor. I could take pictures on a mobile device like a phone or tablet but not with a camera. My camera is mobile, but this chap was not for arguing and I didn't want to be Cameraless In Plainmoor (to misquote Aldous Huxley).
Simon Aldous also went to school with Julie Loxley. No idea what has happened to both.
Well, that was the final straw, my enjoyment over. £19 entrance, £2 for an out of date programme, £2.50 for a bottle of pop and a Kit-Kat and then being told I couldn't take pictures of a football match - a belated birthday present for my son. Singled out - a troublemaker …
Torquay United seriously need to sort out their public relations …
And then there was a free kick, Aaron Downes quickly took the kick, over the heads of the City defenders to an off-side Ashley Yeoman who slid it the back of the net from 15 yards. 1-0 and game over … Man Of The Match was Torquay United keeper Dan Lavercombe (name is nowhere to be seen in the programme) who didn't have one save to make. Figure that one out.

Next season I shall avoid Plainmoor & Torquay United. I'll go the once to see them play Lincoln City and see who they have down as pre-season friendlies, but otherwise I'll take Oscar to watch football at Exeter or maybe Plymouth Argyle?

1: Gilbert "The Gull" (surprisingly not foul-mouthed).
2: Oscar watches "Kick-Off".
3: Game on. (Security guard coming over to try and take my camera away).
4: The Mighty Imps. 1976. Bert on far right.
5: Sneaky picture. (Defiant)!

Oh, I forgot to mention the 10 year old Lincoln City fan who won the 50/50 raffle prize of £95 and then got booed by the Torquay United crowd when he came to collect it at half time. Shame on them. An away "fan" putting money in to the club. How dare he!

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