After my visit to the Midlands in the previous round was replaced by a trip to the West country, I was on the look out when the draw was produced for a chance to head North. Long Eaton therefore seemed a perfect choice, not too far to travel, but in a Northern based league and at a ground I hadn't previously visited.
The usual garbage weather during the week leading up to the game, namely rain and snow potentially put the game under threat. But I woke up to a glorious, sunny day with not a cloud in the sky although it was breathtakingly cold.
The journey towards Nottingham was going without a hitch until the train ground to a halt just outside Grantham. Having sat still for 10 minutes, a guard walked through the carriage announcing that we were just waiting for a platform. I'm not sure whether they were building the platform, had mis-placed the platform or just forgot about us. We eventually moved after being at a standstill for 15 mins. A lady behind me was talking on her phone to her family. Apparently, she hardly ever used a train and was desperately excited by this long delay. It's amazing what gets some people 'turned on', but sitting on a stationery train with no information for what seemed like an eternity doesn't do it for me.
Luckily, I still made my connection at Nottingham and it's only a short trip to Attenborough station. Quite why this train only consisted of two carriages is a mystery I didn't get to the bottom of. 3 weeks from Christmas and we were squeezed in like sardines. The ground at Long Eaton is about a 15 minute walk from Attenborough along the Nottingham road passing a retail park. There were a couple of pubs on the other side of the road but it would have involved taking my life in my hands crossing the road to reach them, so I settled on my annual visit to a McDonalds. My quarter pounder was actually quite enjoyable and entertainment was provided by the couple with 5 kids sitting on the table next to me. They had the wrong drinks, one of them bashed his head on the table, another lost his new watch, a couple of them had a fight and this was all in the apace of 5 minutes. The parents must go to bed at night completely exhausted.
I found the ground easily enough down a side street just past a bowls club. The bowls club had a security guard outside it complete with radio and fluorescent jacket. I couldn't quite understand why he was there as he appeared to be the only person there. The ground is actually bang on the Nottinghamshire/Derbyshire border next to a quiet street where everyone seemed to be washing their car. It really is quite a nice little area.
Happiness is turning up at a ground and finding a match on an adjoining pitch. The game I found was a kids match and not a bad standard in a Long Eaton v Beeston contest. Always refreshing to see the game played with no histrionics. I entered the ground at about 2:45 and for the second round running, the club I was visiting had sold out of programmes. Never mind, my spirits were restored when the teams came out to R.E.S.P.E.C.T by Ottis Redding being played on the P.A, first time I've seen that done, nice idea!
A large corrugated fence surrounds the ground. A nice, good sized stand, a smaller stand on the opposite side and also a small, covered standing area. A good sized pitch.
Dazzling sunlight caused a few first half problems. Bootle came out as the more energised team and caused some early problems. Long Eaton hit the post with their first meaningful attack, but still fell behind on 19 mins following a dreadful error by their keeper. A firm back pass saw the keeper completely mess up his first touch which ended up at the feet of Fowler who slotted it into an empty net. After this, it was attack versus defence with Long Eaton throwing the kitchen sink at Bootle. Bootle defended superbly as if their lives depended on it. Long Eaton did get the ball in the net with ten minutes remaining, but the referee had already blown for a foul.
Another enjoyable trip with an excellent competitive game at the end of it.