After a little early saturday morning procrastination I made my way up the A1(M) towards North Lincolnshire for the Trans-Lincolnshire Derby. I’ve been lucky enough to have visited the county to watch several of their sides over the years with the mighty yellow travelling army. I’ve managed to tick off Great Grimsby, although I guess technically it’s Cleethorpes, I’ve never seen us lose at Lincoln City, I watched us succumb to a 10 man Scunthorpe in a desperately soulless town and stadium. I’ve even made one trip to watch a Torquay United defeat (with Matt Hewlett and Liam Coleman in the midfield engine room!) at York Street in Boston which is a lovely ground with a steep “Eiger Northface” away terrace. This season I’ve also made a trip to lovely Stamford and paid a visit to their wonderfully decrepit Kettering Road ground, which is soon to be no more, so rumour has it.
So off to Gainsborough I went. I turned off the A1 just after East Markham and joined the A57. I unexpectedly encountered a Toll Bridge as well at Dunham and handed over the precise toll of 36p. Apparently it’s quite an historical crossing between Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire over the River Trent. In 1812 the respective ferry crossing cost half a crown.So over the border into Lincolnshire to be greeted with the sights of two massive power stations at Cottam and West Burton both spewing out smoke. Needs must though. Nespresso machines run on more than fresh air and middle class good deeds.
Onwards to the ground via the town centre built with the confines and outer shell of the old Marshall’s Boiler Factory. It’s quite a nice way of at least trying to keep some of the town’s heritage inside. Only 20,000 people live in Gainsborough or the Capital that never was. It also has a little to do with King Canute and it’s still classed as England’s most inland port.
The ground is a special one. Covering on two and a half sides. Open terraces making up the other one and a half. The Northolme. What a great name for a ground. It’s quite a central location and I easily found a parking spot 100 metres or so from the ground. I walked up a pleasant residential street back up to the turnstiles to be met with a coach and a minibus both proudly displaying the company name of “Sleafordian”. Gold and black clad men and women got off. Most of them half cut and dying for a pee.
I paid my 11 quid and was giving an elaborate ticket in return before walking through the worlds longest turnstile tunnel. When I say walking, I really mean mincing through at an angle carrying a camera bag.
908 had turned up for the game including around 12 shopmobility scooters. The refreshment kiosk doing a roaring trade in chips, pies and a really fantastic smelling curry sauce which made make stomach stare at the very depths of my soul and plead with my brain into a purchase. I stood firm though and my stout moral stance gave me a very righteous, almost cyclist, sense of well-being and smugness.
The game, befitting a local derby, was a feisty one with players steaming into each other both on and off the pitch despite the segregation off it. Boston went one up very early on and were the better side. Gainsborough (or big spending Gainsborough according to the Boston United Official Website) looked devoid of any ideas. They were a few disappointed boos at half time. The headphone wearing local nutter on the shopmobility scooter was driving at Ben Hur speeds around the accessible parts of the ground swearing at anyone stupid enough to get in his way.
Then all hell broke loose. Gainsborough, against the run of play, equalised and the local idiots went charging towards the dividing fence. Then people from both sides jumped over the hoardings to have a small skirmish until the stewards regrouped and got hold of the situation again. Two drunk Boston skinheads were escorted out through the Gainsborough fans, all the way around the ground and past me. One of them called me a “fat cunt” which I found just lovely. Boston scored again. This time down to the pencil thin Danish goalkeeper Jan Budtz (once of Donny Rovers) did a De Gea special and parried a tame shot into the path of a Boston player who couldn’t believe his luck. Gainsborough then equalised for the second time with a decent header and that was that.
Still Gainsborough had one more treat to offer me in the shape of Middies Fish Bar towards the south of the centre. A chippy which more than competes with the North Sea Fish Bar in Chesterfield. Freshly cooked haddock to order. Known as just “fish” locally I found out. £3 for a large haddock and a £1 for the best chips I’ve ever tasted. Who would have anything else? Apart from the rough looking bloke, with a spider’s web tattoo to the side of his eye, who popped in. “Will you be wanting fish?” asked the chip shop owner. “No, but I’ll have two battered hamburgers though”. Why oh why? 50 metres further down the road you can take a left turn towards Grimsby, which explains why the Haddock, sorry, fish was so exceptional.
So now I’ve got Sleaford Town, Spalding Town, Louth, Market Rasen, Alford, Mabelthorpe, Winterton Rangers, Skegness and Barton Town Old Boys to go in Lincolnshire. With god’s help I’ll get there now I’ve done the Holy Trinity.