I wanted to start the season off with a new ground. Buxton, rather like Matlock, was one of those grounds which I’d visited the season before but when I rocked up at The Silverlands on a sunny Tuesday last September it was locked up tighter than a gnat’s chuff. I am nothing if resilient in nature as a person so last weekend I decided to kick off the 2012-2013 season by making the trip up to Derbyshire to watch Buxton take on Notts County
The Silverlands, where the air is thin. No sign of oxygen tanks though.
So I set off nice and early. I fancied stopping off for a ham cob at Hambridges in Matlock and possibly a Pudding or two in Bakewell. But as I got held up by summer traffic on the Alfreton to Matlock road all the way from Tansley I decided not to get stuck in Matlock and headed on towards Bakewell. Also a load of a traffic there so I just continued to Buxton but stopped for a short while at Morrisons as my teeth were under water.
You see love, I said I’d tek you for a slap up meal didn’t I?
The Silverlands, as most people will know, is the subject of tricky football based pub quizes as it’s the highest ground in the British Isles at 304 metres beating Tow Law’s Ironworks Road Ground at 287 metres (splendid name and a ground on my to do list) and Bacup Borough’s West View ground at 281 metres. The first league club is the Hawthorns (164 metres), Vale Park (160 metres) and Oldham Athletic’s Boundary Park aka Ice Station Zebra at a fairly modest 155 metres. Although Oldham feels a lot higher and a lot colder than anywhere else in the country. If you hover over the Silverlands in Google Earth however it’s at 316 metres so NASA might have some future say in the record books. But 304 metres is quite impressive really, although it has a long way to go to catch up with the Estadio Daniel Alcides Carrion in Cerra de Pasco in Peru. That one stands at 4,380 metres.
The best pie in football. I think it is, you know. Mushy peas and mint sauce to go with.
Parking seemed to be at a premium very near to the ground and you wouldn’t want chance it with Buxton nick being opposite the Silverlands, so I parked up in a quiet road called Sylvan Cliff with rather nice looking houses with some Notts County fans arriving in a Ford Focus just as I reversed into my spot. I walked the short walk to the ground, happily paid my 6 quid to get in. A quid fifty for the programme and then with a great deal of hunger brewing inside me I sort out the local food. My god what foot it was. A enormous bespoke looking meat and potato pie with mushy peas. I had an epiphany at Buxton. I saw some people before me in the queue putting mint sauce on the mushy peas. Myself and mushy peas have a strange relationship. I enjoy them up north but usually with gravy and I avoid them like the plague in the south. But mint sauce? Not something I really enjoy either. Something to do with childhood memories of mother’s roast lamb which was never as good as her pork, turkey or beef. But mushy peas/mint sauce combination works so well.
Go on lad, boot it to the back of the stand.
The Notts County players walked in. Some in small groups, some plugged into Beats by Dr Dre headphones, some like Xavier Laflamme in Goon and others joking around. The 3 female physios (one cute, two sturdy) carried in the majority of the kit making the first team squad look like an early contender the for Men of the Year award. Keith Curle strolled in looking a fair bit older than the time I saw him play up front for Torquay back in the Bruce Rioch days. I sat and observed this while munching my pie. The cute physio looked at me thinking “he really doesn’t need that” until I second guessed her thoughts and reminded her politely that I’ve been fighting a constant battle against Anorexia for many years now.
The sloping tarmac’d terrace.
The Silverlands is a fanstastic example of a proper non league ground. A deep main stand, the back row of which must be more accurate to NASA’s measurements, a decent sized covered end, a covered side terrace with Clitheroe style houses behind and tarmac’d but sloped terrace at the other end. The first sloped terrace I’ve experienced since Kettering’s sadly unused Rockingham Road ground.
It was also strange to see Colin Lee supervising the Notts County warm up. Once a great player for Torquay, then a saviour not once but twice but then came allegations at Plainmoor that he was pocketing 100 grand a year for doing very little and then took a big pay off to leave a couple of seasons back. “You’re a long way from Buckfastleigh Colin” I shouted across to him and got a slightly bemused look in return.
The covered side terrace. I do like a row of houses behind a stand though.
But it was a typical pre-season game. Buxton full of endeavour and spirit, Notts with the better shape, possession and quality with not a great deal of vocal support for either side. Most of them were in the bar or scoffing pies or in my case trying to stay awake after scoffing one. But I managed to get some decent shots with the camera despite the weird lighting conditions. I even befriended a Pit Bull by uttering “Saaauuussssaaagggesssss”. But it worked, thankfully it stayed on the leash and it even posed for a photograph or two.
Half time came and went. More of the same both on and off the pitch, although the booze started to loosen the language and half-hearted singing started up. Buxton worked very hard. Notts County again had the class look about them but didn’t seem to want to match Buxton for work rate. The home side then won a penalty and scored. A few beer induced frustrations were uttered. A goal then disallowed for County. More frustration. After all no league club wants to lose to the non league club even in a friendly.
Buxton on the attack.
I mingled with the numerous Notts County supporters towards the end of the game. A few arguments amongst themselves. Somebody got called a “daft prat” for revealing that he’d spoken to a player who said he’d be leaving the club. That passed off ok. Then the bloke who got called a daft prat vowed to knock the other bloke out. His mates intervened, lots of Jeremy Kyle style mediation by a few oxygen thieves and the cold realisation that if he knocked the guy out he wouldn’t be able to drive them home. Internally I roared with laughter.
Notts County exert a bit of pressure.
County ended up saving face converting a late penalty and that was that. Well worth the visit. I have a feeling I will be going back this season. I then drove back via the usual fantastic chippy in Belper. High quality battered sausage and chips for £1.85. Chips were crispy on the inside but mushy inside. The apex. I love that part of the world.
Only proper clubs have Sherpa Vans.