The last time I went to a Town game on my own was the same day as the Hillsborough disaster, and I vowed never to do that again.
But 21 years later I have done, and it was actually quite enjoyable. I'd managed to wangle a seat in the press box and figured that I'd need a few pints inside me, so I went into the Trent Navigation next to Meadow Lane and got chatting to Norman, a bloke who once a week cleaned out the changing rooms at the ground. While scrabbling around for some coppers, he mentioned to me that Notts County hadn't paid him for a few weeks now, and he's owed £250. So while megalomaniac shitehawks talk about getting their newly-bought club into the Premier League "within five years", and while they brag with serious faces about "long-term visions", maybe they should remember the people who pick crap up off the floor for them, and, y'know, once in a while pay them some wages.
On with the show! From my seat in the gods of the Derek Pavis stand (Derek, for your information, is the former owner of County, before they went all Hollywood, and he paid the players' wages out of his own pocket at Christmas, apparently) I could see around 700 Mariners wiggling and a-wavin' – all looking cold. But they made a pleasant enough sound.
Town kicked off towards the Trent and immediately found touch via Proudlock's big fat head. County were soon shimmering their way through Town's non-existent midfield, with Hudson and Sinclair both looking like they'd rather be indoors in front of a three-bar fire than outside playing footy. Devitt looked like a little boy scared of touching anyone in case he got the lurgy.
County were unlucky not to be two or three up before they actually scored around the 20-minute mark. Atkinson had spent the first half of the first half looking like he wanted to take Lee Hughes' clothes off, and when he did it one too many times, referee Wright gave County a free kick, which was swung over to the far post for Hughes The Thug to glance home using his shiny head.
How County didn't extend their lead in the next ten minutes is beyond me. And probably beyond Lancashire and Atkinson, too. Sinclair and Hudson continued to remove their feet where lesser men wouldn't fear to tread, and Tommy Wright and Proudlock were reduced to running backwards and forwards and up and down – all the time nowhere near the ball. Town were awful.
And then – and then! – we scored. Sweeney – the only thing worth clinging to all first half – went on a lovely run down the left, and swung the ball over. It was touched out by a County defender to Devitt who saw OverpaidSchmeichel slightly off his line and curled a beauty into the top left corner from about 20 yards.I went apeshit in the press box. I'm not sure you're supposed to do that kind of thing, and I managed to interrupt the bloke behind me as he was live on air. Who cares? Town had managed to go into the break level. Somehow.
Woods must be on steroids, because Town came out in the second half like he'd given them the rollocking of their lives. Town were a team transformed, and Sweeney was the... err... transformer. Like a robot in disguise, he picked his away around an increasingly frustrated County side, whose fans reminded me of those Arsenal fans who ring in to that twat Spoony and moan that Wenger should be sacked. They got ratty every time a pass didn't find feet and moaned when Hughes didn't get every decision each way. I sat in my lair grinning.
About 20 minutes from the end Town got tired of being really good and composed and competitive, and County decided to string a few passes together. But not before Leary, who had come on for the poor Sinclair, had twatted a 30-yard screamer against the bar.
Hughes and Rodgers, the evil bald twins up front for County, were causing Lancashire and Atkinson all sorts of bother; I believe it's called movement. Colgan pulled off two ace saves from shots down low to his left, and then right at the end Hughes, who had already been booked, went through with only Colgan to beat. But Colgan beat him, and snatched the ball away. Hughes went in with his studs up and bundled Colgan into the back of the net.
In ye olde days when football was played in black and white this would've been a County winner, of course. Nowadays, you get sent off. And Hughes did, but not before squaring up to the linesman who had given him offside all night, and not before giving Woods a gobful on his way down the tunnel. He's one of those players you hate (stupid goal celebration, jail sentence for drink driving, etc), but he's one of those players that Town just don't have.Anyway, when Colgan had retrieved his testicles from the back of the net, he took the free kick and the ref blew for time. Town fans went mildy wild. County fans thought the referee was a rotter.
I just hope Norman gets his money soon, 'cos if new owner Trew puts County into administration – as he surely will – he'll be at the bottom of a very long list.