Qatar or Coalville?
Coalville Town 0-2 Nuneaton Borough (Southern League Central Division)
I nervously raced home from the game on Sunday to watch England against Senegal and bar a ropey first half hour, I needn’t have worried about my concerns of a potential banana skin. Jude Bellingham giving a masterclass, iconic in celebration with Jordan Henderson himself brilliant and justifying selection alongside Bukayo Saka who raised eyebrows in the media coming in for Marcus Rashford, Harry Kane with shooting boots on alas whilst Phil Foden had me purring on the sofa.
More of the same on Monday as Croatia edged Japan on pens whilst Brazil danced their way to victory over Korea, I’ve really enjoyed the World Cup thus far but I’m cutting Tuesday short, I’ll be missing Portugal v Switzerland to instead head to Leicestershire and some grass roots stuff between Coalville Town and Nuneaton Borough.
Both sides have been going well. I last watched Coalville beat Notts County in the FA Cup and since respectably falling to Charlton Athletic in the first round they are unbeaten in six with games in hand just outside the playoffs.
Nuneaton are third but have slipped up of late, a loss to Barwell at the weekend has meant just one league win in four, they’ll be looking to pick up their form against a promotion hopeful, it’s a big game as both look to catch Tamworth at the top of the Southern League Central.
Spain & Morocco has gone into extra time, I’m about to leave the house but can’t miss the match going to penalties. I’m coat on and bags packed as Busquets misses Spain’s third, Bono the hero, it’s a beautiful day for the Atlas Lions who knock out one of the pre-tournament favourites.
I’m straight out the door, sitting in the cold of the car, programming the sat nav before heading off to Coalville, a 45 minute drive, I’m avoiding the M1 opting instead for the country roads of south Nottinghamshire, the A60 to Rempstone before heading down the Ashby Road through Zouch and into Foxes county over the A6 towards Belton, entering the back end of Coalville via Whitwick.
I’m at Memorial Square in the town centre as I notice a lovely looking pub on the right called the Snibstone New Inn. Straight over the lights down the Belvoir Road I turn right onto Owen Street past the rows of terraced houses before a hidden entrance on the left has the car in front of me backing up, reversing, he’s missed the turn, I follow him down the single track to the gates of the ground where I ask a steward where to park.
“Behind the goal?” I say “Am I safe there?” as I reverse up behind a low roofed terrace next to a number of other cars.
On entrance I’m through the single brick-built turnstile with a paper ticket I purchased and printed yesterday, into the corner of a quaint and leafy looking venue which is these days titled the Mander Cruickshank Solicitors Stadium, pitch sloped right to left, the old changing rooms are in the corner, lights on but not needed these days as a new brick-built building hogs the half way line in its place.
Opposite that, a low roofed stand has just two rows of seating, covered areas behind the centre of each goalmouth make up a modest home which is back lined in tall trees.
I take a quick wee and grab a coffee for £1.50 before walking down to the far side of the ground where I see an old boy standing alone, a quick chat with him, he’s a season ticket holder who doesn’t go away, he can’t be doing with all the yobs that go, tells me he knows about the drunken stories of fans getting into trouble and is surprised they even let them on the players bus. Cost saving at this level often has fans make up the numbers on team buses for longer journeys, every little bit helps for clubs like Coalville who I’m told would need to spend some on their venue (and team) should they go up.
I’m sat down halfway on the opposite side to the clubhouse and dugouts. Plenty of seats around me but two men nearby have blankets over their knees. It’s bloody freezing as the two teams come out following a rather loud tannoy played rendition of Robbie Williams 'Let Me Entertain You', I’m expecting a close encounter which could go either way, the start is frantic, fast paced and high tempo, the two sets of lads obviously pressing each other with high-intensity to help get the blood rushing down to their ice-cold toes, the away side starting the better as Kane Richards is through on goal but he can’t finish after breaking away with electric pace on the counter attack.
It's bang, bang, bang as ball is thudded front to back, the odd sideways pass out wide and launch as each side looks to not giveaway a foothold, Coalville preferring to play down their flanks whilst Nuneaton happy to go through the middle.
Charlie Dowd takes the ball down halfway, quick feet has him away from two men and he feeds Luke Benbow who runs on and thumps it hard and low into the corner, a bit of class by the midfielder and a walloping finish by the striker has Nuneaton’s travelling army behind the goal in full noise.
A few minutes later it’s two, Dowd looks a player, he’s on the end of a deep cross and volleys with a thwack another thumping effort that has Coalville’s keeper standing. Game set already with just sixteen played?
Coalville need a reaction, they’ve been done by a couple of moments of magic, but Nuneaton are clearly up for the fight tonight. Former Aston Villa midfielder Isaiah Osbourne at centre half these days well into his thirty's is enjoying himself dictating play from defence, Aaron Forde at right back is having a good ding-dong with Ravens winger Luke Shaw. The number seven is the liveliest and most likely to create something for the home side but he’s well marshalled by an experienced troop, the opposite winger Tom McGlinchey is also a threat but not at his best, Nuneaton have come here to compete and have responded to the requests of their Management team of Jimmy Ginnelly and Andrew Danylyszyn following disappointing weekends defeat.
But for a couple of potlucks Coalville’s huff has no puff and Nuneaton are well worthy of their two-goal lead at the break. I’m stood up trying to get some heat back in my feet as the guy next to me under the blanket lowers his snood from over his nose to eat a bag of crisps.
The second half starts, and the home team are immediately on the attack, a decent effort from range by Andi Thanoj is saved by the goalkeeper bouncing back to Ash Chambers who nestles home the rebound frustratingly from an offside position.
Tyrell Waite could have rounded things off for Borough but hits the bar with an effort after cutting in from a wide position, Coalville press late on as Nuneaton retreat to defend their lead, the home side enjoying a lot of possession, getting it out wide to McGlinchey who crosses into the box, time and again dealt with by Osbourne and his centre back partner McManus. If anything the away side look more like scoring on the counter-attack, bringing on the lively Rev James for the last fifteen.
Coalville know it’s not their day when Chambers drags an opportunity wide late on, they’ve been much better in the second half, in particular from the moment Herve Pepe Ngoma came onto the pitch, he replaced Andi Thanoj who went off with a broken jaw, wishing him a speedy recovery from a nasty looking incident after putting his body on the line to defend a Nuneaton attack.
Charlie Dowd had me after seven minutes where he dropped a shoulder and flip flapped in his own half before setting Luke Benbow on his way. His speed of foot amazing, a small stocky left footer from the Burton Albion Academy who dazzled in spells with his dribbling ability.
In attack, Kane Richards shown glimpses of his terrifying pace, electric at times, he should have had a goal to his game, whilst Luke Benbow took his particular netbulger really well, he has his own song to the tune of Spandau Ballet’s Gold and always looked a threat down the right-hand side of attack, short and strong with a big arse, a real handful.
Defensively however, I felt this is where Nuneaton on the night excelled, looking competent and confident, assured from the wiry Aaron Forde doing a job at right back from his usual favoured midfield position, to left back Lathanial Rowe-Turner whose size shape and stature had wingers in fear. Isaiah Osbourne now 35 playing with a smile on his face, a Premier League footballer making things look easy, next to Scott McManus, club captain who’s talking was every bit as important as his heading and clearing away.
One special mention to the marvellously regal named Prince Mancinelli. At twenty years old he sat in front of the back four like a veteran with discipline and positional sense that is usually not associated with one so young, eluding back to Jude Bellingham, tall and sophisticated on the ball, with a maturity beyond his years.
For Coalville, well they weren’t at the races, but wingers Luke Shaw and Tom McGlinchey did alright. The triangles they play in the final third are often effective and in some ways some of the better stuff even came from the home side in possession, but their midfielders couldn’t dictate the scrap, their strikers didn’t have enough to danger the Nuneaton defence, it wasn’t but for trying, a hard working side who are willing to do battle with anyone toe-to-toe, substitute Herve Pepe Ngoma standing out for me as one who on the night, could physically compete with a bigger, stronger and quicker side.
It was a big three points for Nuneaton who keep Coalville at arm’s length whilst affirming their own promotion aspirations. There’s a game against leaders Tamworth next month which could be very tasty indeed… By then, if they’re still in the mix, they could be serious contenders for the title.
For Coalville, don’t write them off from a playoff place just yet as they have games in hand and are well and truly a top five contender at least. This defeat will hurt for now but with still more of half of their season to play, they’ll have a big say in the race and will certainly be in the mix come May.
Two decent sides doing their best attempt to warm the cockles on a proper cold night of non league football... Turns out Portugal won at a canter and I missed a top performance from Ronaldo stand in Goncalo Ramos at the World Cup, not that I'm bothered, because I wouldn't have swapped Coalville for Qatar or the glamour of an international fixture for this Southern League Central scrap with pitchside viewing, that is unless England were playing of course.
Coalville Town: Paul White, Alex Dean (Connor Smith 62), Elliot Putman, Jake Eggleton, Chris Robertson, Andi Thanoj (Herve Pepe-Ngoma 60), Luke Shaw, George Wilson, Billy Kee, Ashley Chambers (Tendai Chitiza 62), Tom McGlinchey.
Nuneaton Borough: Tony Breeden, Aaron Forde (Matt Stenson 90), Isaiah Osbourne, Scott McManus, Lathaniel Rowe-Turner, Prince Mancinelli, Ryan Beswick, Tyrell Waite, Luke Benbow (Rev James 76), Charlie Dowd, Kane Richards.
7:45pm Kick Off. Tuesday 6th December 2022, Owen Street Sports Ground, Coalville (att 401).