Peterborough Sports 1-2 Gloucester City (National League North)
I love chocolate, so I paid £35 for a box on Monday morning at St Pancras Station, only to find out, inside I got twelve bloody pieces… And worse still… I have to share half of them with the wife.
The come down from the day out that was Manchester United against Newcastle United is sombre after staying out late to watch the ridiculously over-hyped Tommy Fury v Jake Paul fight, there’s two guys chatting on the train on the way back, ones been to watch Forest get thrashed at West Ham, another is a Sheffield United season ticket holder who’s been to Heston Blumenthal’s restaurant with his Mrs.
By Tuesday, thankfully I’m fully recovered but catching up on emails, before a trip south to Peterborough Sports, it’s a game I booked in as it’s easy enough to get to, although last time I parked up behind the goal at Lincoln Road my new Merc got thumped by a ball.
It’s getting on for 5pm so I start to make tracks on an hour and twenty journey from Nottingham, bored of the A1 in recent weeks and with time to kill I’m heading down the A606 towards Melton, an underrated drive up and down the stunning North Leicestershire Wolds, passing the Tap and Run pub which is owned by cricketers Stuart Broad and Harry Gurney, recently in the news for setting on fire, it’s being done up and is starting to look like a pub again.
The road is winding, rain overhead is threatening but not yet falling, I’m directed by Sat Nav off piste through the beautiful sandstone village of Waltham on the Wolds and then Buckminster, before coming to Colsterworth where I’m asked to turn ‘right’ across the A1 where two lanes of cars going 100mph are heading towards my back end.
With a sweat on I manage to avoid any nasty incident, just, before setting the speed to sixty in the slow lane whilst listening to TalkSport as I head past Stamford and Wittering before joining the A47 to Peterborough by now, darkness and rain, windscreen wipers set to level two.
Gloucester City are the opponents today. It’s the National League North and for the life of me I can’t fathom how Gloucester is in the north, but here we are, a twice re-arranged game I’m told, but Posh are playing at home tonight, there’s not much attendance expected, although Gloucester to Peterborough is ‘only’ a two and a half hour drive, at least it’s not Blyth, Scarborough, Spennymoor or Darlington, some of their journeys are frankly ridiculous to comprehend.
I’ve missed the turning three times, I know it’s near the NHS centre but can’t find the entrance to the car park, I pull up in a hand car wash and spin it around, finally through the gates of the Bee Arena I’m pointed by a steward to park in the same spot as last time… I’m nervous as I don’t particularly want another ball print on my windscreen, but I take the risk and play the odds.
The palm trees offer a Mediterranean splash to the back of the stand behind the goal as I’m out the car heading towards the side of the clubhouse and through the turnstile where my name is very quickly found by the gateman.
On walking in I’m asked if I want a go on the ‘fifty fifty’ not usually a participant I tell the old boy “let me grab a coffee and a wee and I’ll go get some change”.
The clubhouse is spacious, with nice smelling toilets, I’m at the bar ordering a brew where a lovely southern accented lady asks me if I want to have a go on the card. I’ve got a warm sausage roll in my mouth as I write down my name on Blackburn, before asking a young girl “where do I collect my winnings?”
Out the door I’m back at the old boy with another quid for fifty fifty, I stand with him and have a chat, he tells me about the club set to announce new owners tomorrow, he says they need to get up to speed with improving facilities with a deadline next month, a new stand is needed, new turnstiles, the walkways widened, it won’t be cheap, the existing Chairman Grant Biddle had recently came out in the press and stated he’d taken the club as far as he could. The new owners will get to work straight away, it’s an exciting future, and one which will hopefully secure National League North status, as long as they don’t find themselves in the relegation places, of course.
The old boy tells me of the founders, he worked for the company Brotherhoods Engineering which employed over 2,000 people locally, they had twelve football teams, eight cricket teams, hockey teams, the clubhouse was packed to the rafters on Friday nights with pool and darts, the land owned over the years sold off for housing, now only two pitches survive, there used to be a good few acres of sporting facility here.
These days it’s a pitch in bobbly nick, slight slope top to bottom there’s a small stand which has seats going back four or five rows to my left, behind one goal is a roofed terrace, nothing much behind the opposite goal, I’m told that’s where they’ll add another covered area soon, opposite wing is a low roofed seating area which I’m avoiding today, last time I sat there I had a bus load of day trippers to hear heckling all afternoon.
I’m sat down on the back row, not very high up, there’s a Radio Cambridgeshire reporter beside me, 74 years old he’s covered non-league for many years and reminds me a bit of the late great Colin Slater.
He’s telling me he won a bet at the weekend thanks to Spurs beating Chelsea, before consoling with me his addiction to online National Lottery scratch cards, he plays to his daily limit and is a few quid up from it I reckon.
There’s a good ten minutes to kick off as the fine rain swarms down sideways, the players warmed up, towelled off, are back in the changing rooms, there’s not many inside the arena, no more than fifty or so, I’m looking around as I say to the reporter ‘what’s the lowest attendance ever for this level?’
Thankfully, a few stragglers head in for game start, the away side haven’t brought many with them, the home sides gate effected largely by the weather, and more so by Peterborough United playing at home tonight.
Finally kicked off and underway, the game starts at frantic pace, as predictable as anything at this level, on this pitch, no one takes more than two touches, but for the speedy wingers on each team, who both kick it as far in front of them as possible and run after it full pelt.
It’s scrappy, centre halves are on top, but Peterborough look decent, they get it wide where they have pace, and look to attack down the flanks.
They’ve had a couple of sniffs already before neat midfielder Josh McCammon slides on loan forward Johnson Gyamfi racing through. Gyamfi I remember playing well earlier in the season at Boston is owned by Peterborough United, just 21-years-old he’s electric, Gloucester City centre half Ben Nugent has stepped up to play offside, lazy, Gyamfi runs through clear with just the keeper to beat, calmly slotting home the opener.
The home side are good value, nothing really much coming from Gloucester who look similar in style to Peterborough but not as pacey down the sides, big lads in the middle, a big lad up top, you get why these teams are kicking around in the centre of the division, typical outfits that tend to have a ‘bit’ of everything needed to survive.
There’s been a few bookings and the game is starting to boil over, the rain is coming down at a more frantic ferocity but the pitch is holding well, a minute before the break you start to think it’s a comfortable evening for Peterborough, who concede after what has largely been against the run of play.
A cross pumped into the box is fired at goal with Pete Crook saving well but Kieran Phillips is on the end to tap home from close range as the Sports players call for offside.
At half time I’m told of ticket number 00319 as the winner of fifty fifty, I know I’m close as I take out my wallet and have a look, I tell the reporter ‘I’ve won it’ before saying “I should probably give it back to the club” in knowing how much financial strain they’ll be in over the coming weeks… I doubt my £35 prize will make too much difference… Trust me to win on a game where the attendance is an all time low.
In the second half I’m joined by a lad from South Yorkshire who won’t stop talking.
He teased me earlier in the game asking me “why's there feathers on the pitch” to which I ignored, but later in the game we get chatting, turns out he could drop more non-league names than Tony Incenzo… He’d been to see Peterborough v Sheff United’s youngsters earlier in the day and insisted on telling me every detail of the 4-3 Blades win.
He knows Gloucester Manager Steve Kerr and we got talking about Chesterfield left back Brandon Horton before he spilled me the beans of team-mate Liam Manderville’s party going characteristics. He talked about Will Jarvis at Hull City and said a boy at Barnsley, Charlie Heckingbottom, is highly rated with a few clubs looking at him, but he won’t track back, he asked me how ‘Ozzy’ played for Buxton last week, before getting on to a player I know in Lindon Meikle, where it turned out the lad had worked for Mansfield Town in the past with him, going on to drop the names of Paul Cox, Billy Heath, John Ramshaw and more.
Meanwhile there’s a game going off and Gloucester have somehow taken the lead, just five minutes into the second half it’s Phillips again from close range, he certainly has predatory instincts, sniffs danger, a fox in the box.
I don’t remember much of the second half with all the talking in my ear, Peterborough are flat and rarely test the opposition goalkeeper, Gloucester grow with confidence, they’ve only three on the bench tonight, but feel no need to use any of their subs.
A few more bookings, it’s been a tough night for the referee who’s had to stamp his authority, eight in total see yellow, that’s probably more than chances created in the game, only three minutes added time goes up on the board, Peterborough aren’t happy, but they could play for three more hours and wouldn’t score, taking off a lively threat in Maniche Sani early doors, hindered, rather than helped their chance of a comeback.
Despite stepping up when instead he should have defended the opening goal, Gloucester centre half Ben Nugent is a big solid defender, the sort on the night, in the conditions was well suited to ‘having a scrap’ and getting stuck in.
Right back Jack James also impressed me whilst in front of him, Junior Tiensia looked like he had some ability, Victor Nirennold in midfield a real big lad, looked a handful, the star though the two goal hero up top, Kieran Phillips, busy in attack, tidy in his finishing.
For Peterborough it was in spells during the first half impressive, but mostly in the second, dismal, Richard Jones at centre half like Ben Nugent his opposite number, a good old fashioned head it and kick it kind of guy, doing well and playing the conditions, whilst Johnson Gyamfi and Maniche Sani shown glimpses in attack, the inventory in passing from Josh McCammon not going un-noticed.
Worryingly, that defeat leaves Peterborough seventeenth in the table and just seven points clear of the drop zone, whilst they should have enough, they have been falling of late, under the new management duo of Luke Steele and Michael Gash.
They’ll hope to have enough so they can start works in the know, that by improving their stadium, they’ll be staying in the Division, whilst for Gloucester no such concerns in looking below them, that win taking them to eighth, two points and a place outside the playoff places, they’ll have a chance to push for promotion, hovering in the mix with only eight weeks to play.
As for me? I'm off £35 up as I thank the lady behind the bar, she tells me "I told you it was worth playing" as I head to the car even happier, knowing that no ball marks are to be washed off my windows tonight, as I set for a journey home listening into Jason Cundy and Jamie O'Hara, looking up to the skies above up the A1, trying to get a glimpse midst the clouds, of the stunning aurora borealis.
Peterborough Sports: Peter Crook, Isaiah Bazeley, Richard Jones, Connor Jonson, Nathan Fox, Hugh Alban Jones (Dan Lawlor 63), Connor Kennedy, Jordan Crawford, Josh McCammon (Ryan Fryatt 90), Maniche Sani (Jordan Nicholson 63), Johnson Gyamfi.
Gloucester City: Brandon Hall, Jack James, Ben Nugent, Ben Morgan, Junior Tiensia, Tope Obadeyi, Jacob Berkeley-Agyepong, Owen Evans, Tommy O'Sullivan, Kieran Phillips, Victor Nirennold.
7:45pm Kick Off. Tuesday 28th February 2023, Lincoln Road, Peterborough (att 120).