Well that was a highly forgettable first match to start life at University. I'm struggling to remember a ground that I've visited, or a match that I've witnessed, that screams non-league more than it did today.
So while somebody on my course found their way into a press box at Notts County to watch a 4-3 cracker, I was stood next to a sewage plant in Nottinghamshire (more on that later) watching two Step 4 teams in the FA Trophy. The glamour of media, eh, folks?
Matches that were relatively local to the University are always going to be welcomed, so it was a no-brainer for me to go and watch my hometown team play. Me and RR scrambled together a train ticket each, and Saturday came round before we knew it. Student Finance was able to assist with the Uber to the train station, as was the fact that I was feeling lazy.
We arrived in Carlton at 14:05, so that we could go to the ground, and then left Carlton immediately, so that we could go the ground, which was actually in the village of Gedling. I think it told us all we needed to know that we were the only two people to leave the train at Carlton station. I'm not suggesting Carlton was awful, that's not my judgement to make, but from what I did see it appeared to be a very small town.
Our Press Officer kindly offered to pick us both up from the station, which we gladly accepted, as I, in particular, am lazy. It was a short five-minute drive to the ground, but it felt as if we spent longer trying to enter the ground than we did actually driving to it. RR was in without a fuss, but I failed to realise that this was non-league, and that they might prefer cash to make it quicker. Never mind. The card reader they were using took a couple of minutes to arrive as they were sharing it with the tea bar. In that time, I'd swapped with the Press Officer to make it quicker, so that he could get through while I was waiting for the magic box. The turnstile operator forgot to let him through, somehow, so he was stood there for a while as the card machine was found. Then we both went through at the same time.
Non-league, eh? Never fails to entertain. The food was a definite plus of the day. I opted for my usual choice of a cheeseburger, but it came with chips, which was already a good start. They were proper chips with the skin on too, and a nicer burger than what you would expect at football.
We had a quick flick through the team sheet, with just one change for either team. My work on this during the week gave me a slight feeling that Carlton were not going to be a pushover. They had scored two goals or more in six of the last seven meetings, for example.
My worries were proven correctly pretty much immediately as Clarkson clattered their attacker in the third minute, conceding a penalty and grabbing a yellow too. Davie slotted the penalty in the bottom left with relative ease, too. A wonderful start. However, as the game restarted, the wind changed, and we realised we were sat next to a big sewage plant which sent the smell in our direction for what felt like an age. Well, I suppose it's got to be placed somewhere! Just so happened that it was next to a football ground where my team were losing. Not that we should've been losing, though. We had at least five chances in the 20 minutes after the goal, but Marvellous was simply not living up to his name, Langy smacked the post with his effort and Yatesy couldn't find the net with his follow-up after Marv's shot. We also believed he was fouled by the keeper in the same way Clarkson fouled their attacker, but for some reason, the ref didn't give anything. Probably lost a contact lens or two on the pitch.
I'm not sure many people could doubt we dominated the first half with our chances. We couldn't take them, but they did. Corner crossed in, and accurately headed top bins by Sargent. 2 attempts, 2 goals for them. Umpteen attempts, no goals for us. That was the story of the first half, rather frustratingly. Football's a game of chance, and when you don't take the chance, you're a fish out of water. Simple as that.
Rather surprisingly, the best bit of the game came at half time. I was typing notes on my phone about the first half, while RR and some others were stood around the tea bar. All of a sudden, he asks, "Did you hear what he just said?", referring to the people to our left. I gave him a rather perplexed look, and he explained that the Carlton Town staff member came out asking for a screwdriver because the linesman had somehow, allegedly, become stuck in the toilet cubicle. Personally, I thought it was an interesting concept. You hear all the time of matches being abandoned due to a waterlogged pitch (we had one last season), but I doubt there's that many delays or abandonments due to a linesman being stuck in the bog. Classic non-league, really.
We will never know what truly happened, but all the officials came out on time, as did the players. Thing is, they may as well have stayed inside a bit longer, because for the next 30 minutes, there was nothing being created by either team. The other 15 was relatively entertaining. We had two free kicks, one of which was shot low by Nesbitt straight at the keeper. The other was hit at the wall by Langy. In between those two free kicks though, we did have a chance. Johnno broke through the defence and crossed the ball over to Nesbitt, who headed past the keeper.
Game on! Well, maybe we were a little naive. Other than the two free-kicks, not a lot happened. Johnno was clear through on goal in injury time and was chopped on the edge of the box by Sargent, and sending him for an early bath. Well, earlier bath by about three minutes.
The referee blew the whistle and that was that. The FA Trophy dream came to an end. Doesn't matter. Didn't fancy Wembley anyway.