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Walking in a Winterton Wonderland

By: Chris Smith
Date: 01/08/2009

I'M glad I went to this one! I came to the corresponding fixture last year and we did well to get a one-all draw. Despite the pre-season results last year, I enjoyed the trips to the non-league grounds where you can mingle with the home supporters and be closer to the players, so was delighted to see Town arrange a friendly at Winterton.

I gather from the Winterton's programme notes (and thanks for producing one), this game was at Town’s request, so thanks again to the home club for agreeing to stage this game.

I was impressed with the set-up here last season, but then non-league football in the Scunny area seems to be far ahead of that around Grimsby. The ground is well appointed although I understand that promotion to the Unibond League was withheld the season before last as it didn't quite meet their standards. Nevertheless, the club have come a long way in a short time and are playing at Level 5 in the pyramid and finished high up in The North Counties East Premier League last season. They have definitely got a winning mentality and when MN said he wanted to see Town free scoring today, I didn't think it would be an easy game by any means. There is a big smart bar which welcomes fans so a lot of effort has gone into developing this club as it won't have come cheaply. My only issue with it was that it did my favourite drink from years ago, a pastime sadly closed to me now. Gaymers Olde English Cider. Still, Gary let me sniff his pint for old time’s sake.

We fielded the same line-up that we will have most of the season. I'm talking here about me, Gary and Big Jim meeting up for some snap at Delves Caff near Junction 6 of the M18 at Thorne and handy for those away games. Gary likes coming to pick me up in Thorne. He keeps mumbling about Thorne "chavbabes" or something every time. I'm worried about him. Jim comes over from Grimsby and then we transfer into the one car and off we go. I think they are used to us there now. Jim likes the pie, peas and chips here, so much so that it constitutes his breakfast on the really early starts. No prizes for guessing what I had and the caff slaughtered a pig especially for Gary’s big breakfast.

Delves has become a bit of an institution for us on matchdays, and said days have been enough to have me committed to one. We were a bit worried about whether the game would go ahead given how heavy the rain was and that this fixture had been postponed last year for the same reason, but set off in hope. The sound system in Jim’s car isn't working, which was a disappointment as he has cut a few "Football Boogie" CDs which we sing along to, usually amended the words to a football theme a la Rob’s karaoke classics. Bad Manners’ "Can-can" is now "can, drink another can can etc" and The Specials’ "Ghost Town" is "Ghost Ground" with lyrics about all the stands being closed down and too much fighting in the Pontoon. You get the picture, you're glad you don't travel with us! We also have a few naughty ditties for weekend drivers and we sung one for the first time this season as we tried to get on the M180. This inevitably got the vocal chords going for the Liquidator and a few more unprintables.

After 20 minutes or so, we had pulled up on West Street but outside the Bowls Club rather than the football ground. However, we got our bearings and reparked and made our way in for just a fiver and a good programme effort too for £1. There didn't seem to be many Town fans there at the time and the bar was fairly quiet. We did see a few familiar faces though, including Ado who sits in the Upper Findus and travels to the away games on what I call the p*ssheads bus. That isn't derogatory as it reminds me of the journeys I made to Town games as a London Mariner. All power to their elbows I say. Ado was smiling, a rarity over the last couple of seasons and I found it a bit disconcerting for a moment as we have tried to out-misery each other for a while. However, there is an air of optimism which I share at the moment and a realisation that nothing can be as bad as last year.

Going out into the ground again, it was clear that a lot of effort had been put into the pitch which was in fantastic condition. The number of Town fans had swelled and three sides of the ground were well represented with Black and White, although still less than I expected. We bumped into Ian, who is another exile and travels from Chesterfield, and settled ourselves on the open terracing which was on Town’s right as they attacked in the first half.

The article continues in Part Two

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