A Stag at Stags

Having got our “Blimey, never expected that!” play off challenge back on track last weekend with 3 points against Orient, we hit the home stretch of what’s been a memorable first ever Football League campaign. 6 games to go, 3 home, 3 away. Best put our finest big boy piss boiling trousers on and get to work. Next up for the U’s is a first visit to Field Mill, home of Mansfield Town on Good Friday. This one’s been keenly anticipated for a while now mainly as it was also decided that this was probably the best way to have a little unofficial Gandermonium ‘Stag Do’ for Dukey who’s getting hitched this summer.

The reasoning behind all this being that a couple of nights on the piss in Nottingham would be far cheaper and easier to organise than some trip to Benidorm or some such gaff and we’d probably be doing the same thing for this game anyway. Dictionary definition of 2 birds one cup stone that. See, we’re not completely stupid you know. Up here for thinking, down there for dancing as a wise man once said. Not that we can dance. Like at all. Shout, drink and watch shit football, that’s more our area of expertise. But it doesn’t really fit into a clever and wise proverb like saying too well does it? So shut yer face and let’s get this shit show on the road shall we? Oh and no, we genuinely didn’t realise their nickname was the Stags until very recently. Straight up.

Well, this is nice…
Want a straw? No? Oh, ok then….

With plans all laid for a migration North on the Thursday, as the big day drew closer, the Wembleydemic we touched on in the Orient blog continued to put spanners into finely tuned awayday piss up machinery. Several of the crew were still suffering during the week and come the day, we’d lost Robbo and (Not Irish) Pete to what seemed like a never ending stream of positive tests. My own wellbeing was causing me concern too as on Tuesday, I woke up feeling like I’d dropped out of a dogs bottom. The old LFT said nein to the ‘rona, so I put my faith in over the counter druggage and got a major Lemsip habit to try and shake whatever non-headline grabbing lurg I’d picked up. Fortunately, this helped and by Thursday morning, I was much more like myself and a final LFT got my weekend pass signed off with Mrs Taz. This was great news for Dr Bell who’d been due to travel up with me in the motor and was left hanging on travel plans until this late hour.

Still, we’re all good to go and leaving HQ dead on 1pm with a full tank of go go juice, I swung by Dr Bell’s gaff, threw the old codger in the boot and pointing the motor north, I get my toe down. This lasts as far as the A3 sadly and we’re soon in the queue on the slip road to join the world’s largest car park in the M25. Sadly, this fucking miserable stretch of road is properly earning it’s moniker today and having rolled slowly onto it’s dreadful surface at Junction 10, we then spend fucking ages trundling half it’s length to J21 and the M1. This is a right ball ache. Still, the M1 should be bet….scratch that, it’s fucked too. It’s not until we get well north of Milton Keynes that we see anything like north of 60mph again and even then, it’s largely a token stretch. It’s so bad that my earlier thought of having a brief stop to grab a sarnie and a cuppa are soon binned off. “Unless either of us needs a piss, we ain’t stopping now!” I declare to my co-pilot. There’s no arguments from the good Doctor, so we keep on plodding.

As we finally make our way off at the Nottingham junction, Chalmers messages to tell us he’s right behind us on the roundabout. Sadly my imported Japanese city car come toaster impersonator is no match for his good lady’s 22 plate Merc estate, which glides past us about a mile later despite my best efforts to carve traffic and lose them. Still, it at least means I can turn off my 10 year old sat nav & just make use of Mercedes most up to date navigational guidance. The run into town is the clearest we’ve had all days and we eventually park up by the hotel just after 6pm. 5 fucking hours. What a twat. I got to bloody Hartlepool quicker than that!! Check in is sorted and as I’m dumping my bags I hear the unmistakeable sound of my door handle being tried. Eh??? I investigate and find Dr Bell outside my room staring at his car key in confusion. “Bird at reception said 124!” he whimpers, quoting the number on my room door. “Despite the fact you’ve got 123 written on the bit of paper in your hand you stupid old man!” is all I can offer in response. Which is fair enough in the circumstances I think.

Vending machine
Ah, my old nemesis….
Mansfield bound….

With my dopey neighbour sorted and Chalmers and his good lady Hayley relocated, we set out for the pub where all the rest of the mob are waiting opposite the location for dinner this evening. Naturally we get a sarcastic cheer from the others on arrival being the last to get here. Yes yes, whatever. Do we have time for a pint? Get to the bar Bell!! It seems that our own travel issues aren’t unique and that everyone has taken at least 4 and a half hours to do the run via several different routes. Only Mr X has had a decent trip as he took the train. And oh boy is he not remotely smug about that, ooooh no. Not one bit. We catch up quickly over one of the fastest pints I’ve had in ages before heading over the road to eat lots and lots of barbecue food. Here Nat and Ossie tuck into fishbowl cocktails, which of course never leads to anything good after the Savoy in Glasgow that time. Mr X decides he’ll be posh and have a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc to himself as “It’s only £15 quid”. “You sure?” enquires Greek before the man of mystery looks closer and realises he’s misread the font and it’s actually 3 times that price.

Having changed his order for some cheaper plonk, “Don’t you fucking blog that!” he moans to me sat next to him. “Sorry mate, what was that?” says I, breaking off from making a note in my phone about the wine incident. “Oh. No worries” I add, before putting “Don’t you fucking blog that” into my notes too. Don’t worry bud, I got you. Your secret is safe with me! The food is a little slow, but it’s a decent nosh and just what I needed as I’d last eaten some toast shortly before 9am this morning. The two pints I’ve necked at great speed also needed soaking up too! With an overly complicated bill finally paid, we head over the road to the Faraday as it’s fairly quiet and the only place that doesn’t have a queue outside. Loffers ditches for the night here and the rest of us hit the bar. Here we discuss gin and tonic tasting better in a normal straight glass than in one of those fucking goblet things they serve in nowadays, why there’s no stripper for Dukey (We advise the stag that if he wants nakedness, he’ll have to take care of that himself). Eventually though, the bar closes in traditional fashion with the staff turning the lights up from “dimmed and moody” to “GET THE FUCK OUT!!” blinding bright. Ok. Guess we’d better go then.

We love us a good rail viaduct we do….
Another town, another day on the pints…

Back at the hotel, I go to get a bottle of water from the vending machine only to find the card reader busted. And I’ve only got a quid on me. Arse! I go to reception but no one’s there to change a tenner so I’m a bit fucked. Then Mr X wanders in from a pre-kip smoke and much to his chagrin I prise 3 quid off him for my hydration needs and bid him goodnight. Of course, I then find the machine is fucked entirely and doesn’t accept coins (some twat has put the ‘Out of Order’ sign on top of the machine for some reason!) and after a brief search, a machine two floors above does the job. On my card. So I’ve got 3 quid out of a Scotsman for no good reason. Somebody call Guinness, I think that might just be worth an entry in that book of theirs…

Feeling a bit better than expected, I’m up for Breakfast in time and find Dr Bell scoffing along with a couple of others. With stodge on board, we arrange to meet at 10 for the short walk to the station and our train to Mansfield. Here in reception I find a rather Summery attired Lee who looks like he’s off for a stroll down the front in the Costas. Contrast this with Mr X who appears out of the lift dressed entirely in black, including a thick padded jacket that makes him look like he’s about to go knock off a post office. “You not warm in that?” enquires Loffers. And with our chuckles ringing in his ears, he steps back into the lift to go ditch his jacket. Twats assembled, we trot down the road, passing the Canal House, one of our favouritest pubs here and hit the station to find Greek and Ray have sorted out tickets. Lovely stuff! A long LONG walk down the platform later, the train is on time and we’re soon trundling Mansfield-wards. Along the way, Greek and Magnum thrash out their usual daft bets for the day, during which I talk them out of backing Dover against Borehamwood. We hop off in a sunny Mansfield and following 4Days, who’s on a day trip and that we’d picked up fresh off the train at Nottingham, leads us to the Railway for a first jar of the match day.

World’s smallest VIP area…
Mansfield Town
First view of Field Mill…

It’s a lovely little local and we park up in the little garden out back and tuck into a couple of pints in the sunshine to take us past the 12 noon marker that usually means most other boozers are open. Here we meet a local who’s a Notts County fan but is wearing an Orlando Pride shirt. “I can’t wear County colours round here, I’d get my head kicked in!” he offers. Lovely. After here we head to the Byron just off the market square and tuck into a quick pint only as the place is rammed and they’re insisting on you sitting down outside, despite there being very few seats around. We swerve the lively looking Swan round the corner as the loud music and number of yellow and blue shirts indicates this is a bit of a home pub (this doesn’t stop Porn Star from heading in and getting a ‘friendly’ welcome apparently!) and instead we head up the hill to the Garrison, a little micro pub that some of the lads in the Byron have recommended. Here they have some top beer on and the Forest loving guvnor has his boys on the box away at Luton. We briefly see Bob and Cathy here, on their way to the next one and we’re soon joined by a few other travelling U’s with Keepo, DB, Fish the Cabbie and others wandering in. Magnum also seats himself in what must be the smallest VIP area in the world. Settled here, we have a couple and this includes 4Days trying some insane percentage stout that smells like fucking diesel. It’s more expensive than diesel by the litre too! Stag rules means Dukey gets to try some of this delightful tipple and immediately he dribbles it down the front of his white polo top. Oh mate.

Two o’clock rolls round and past so quickly though and supping up, we head back down the hill to the ground and the sort of main reason we’re here. The football. Mansfield are on a roll at home of late and have 11 straight wins in their own backyard to date. Today will not be easy! At the turnstiles, the welcome for the big flag is a complete contrast to Checkpoint fucking Charlie at Port Vale a couple weeks back. “Has it got a fire certificate?” asks the steward “If so, show it to me and you’re golden”. Tag displayed, I’m in and heading for the usual task of getting this shit sorted. See lads, not hard is it? Admin done, I go bag myself a bottle of water for an already creaking throat and settle in for the off.

Bouzanis, Milsom, Kizzi, Goodliffe, John, Eastmond, Beautyman, Ajiboye, Boldewijn, Bugiel, Olaofe SUBS: House, Wyatt, Rowe, Korboa, Bennett, Wilson, Davis

It’s panoramamamama time!
He’s big, he’s geez…

From the first whistle, it’s clear that the U’s are bang up for this and we’re back to our good old selves all over the park. Chasing, pressing & harrying the oppo wherever possible. The home fans to our right are making a racket though and the first few minutes passes without too much incident. Then with 10 gone and a rousing rendition of “Your support is fucking shit” from the locals, the keeper rolls it out to their lumpen looking 6. He dithers, goes for a back pass and leaves it woefully short. Omar nips in, rounds the keeps and slots it for the early lead. Ooops. From here, we’re largely on top, with Enzio having one run from wide ending with a shot straight at the keeps, whilst the hosts struggle to really get going. Their best chance coming from some pressure around the box that ends with a low ball across that the lad arriving back post puts it wide. Milsom then whips a freekick near post that the keeper has to punch away under his crossbar. But at the break, we’re in front and largely in control. Lovely stuff, time for a pie and another bottle of the old H20. A halftime piss also reveals some cracking old school away bogs graffiti, not something you see much of any more these days!

From the restart, the drum amongst the home support to our right is getting another early bashing as they try to lift their team. Sadly for them, their bubble is burst once more by our lads press and graft. We win the ball in their half, work it to the opposite side and Enzio darts to the bye line, clips it back stick and whilst Issac can’t quite make the header, Dave’s arriving immediately behind to rattle it into the far corner. 2-0 Sutton! We’re at it again lads!! From here, whilst the hosts play some ok stuff and probe for gaps, we’re absolutely rock solid and giving nowt away. Dave had a shot deflected wide after a trademark turn and dart from deep and Issac forces a decent save off the legs off the keeper with a run and shot from an angle. It seems like we’ve just got to keep doing what we’re doing to see this out. Despite some life from Mansfield, a small goalmouth scramble and an embarrassing dive in the box that earns their lad a yellow is all they can muster. So with Bennett and then Wilson on for us, we’re looking good. But this is Sutton United dear reader. Sutton “Fucking hell we don’t like doing it easy do we lads?” United. Sutton “You fuckers will be the death of me almost on a weekly basis” United. There’s usually a twist in the tale is what I’m saying. And so, with a little over 10 to go, the largely impotent hosts are chucked a lifeline. A huge lump down the middle from the keeper is flicked on just outside the box and Ben Goodliffe stretching behind can only put his head on it and loop it over a stranded Deano to make it 2-1. Uh oh. Here we go.

Sutton United
Sutton’s going up with a tenner in the bank!
Wait, what?

But again dear reader, this is of course Sutton United. Sutton “We can be a right set of beautiful bastards as well sometimes!” United. And as the hosts throw everything at us for a leveller, roared on anew by their support, we do what we do best. Roll up sleeves, graft and go win the ball back. Two minutes after the oggy, Easty does his bit, finds Enzio infield, who lays off to Dave and from halfway he instantly pings a diagonal over the defence for Ritchie Bennett in space. His first touch is superb and having steadied himself, cracks it low under the keeper into the far corner. 3-1 to the good guys and the away end goes mad again. Surely that’s game, set, match, checkmate? Uh, kinda. Yeah. The board goes up for added time and as you may be aware, we’ve recently had a bit of trouble in that department. “If this is 7 minutes, I’m fucking off” mutters Beckett behind me as the 4th official raises it. 6 minutes. Close! Ok lads, let’s go. We dig in and with barely seconds of the 6 left, the ball is on the edge of the box. Their lad has a hit, it clips Ben Goodliffe trying to block, then Louis behind him and it’s this touch that deceived Bouzanis to make it 3-2. See above comments about “This is Sutton United”. Jesus wept.

Fortunately though, it’s too little too late for Clough’s mob and at the final whistle, we bathe in the joy of three big points and the boos of the home fans ringing out from the stands. Which if were a 12 year old FIFA playing virgin, would probably require a post on the socials saying something like “Inject it”. No, we’ve no idea either. Lads applauded off and flag down, I head out to find the others and walk into the last knockings of a bit of “HOLD ME BACK LADS!!” outside, where it seems some of their scrotes have decided to give it some lip. “What caused that?” I enquire of Beckett shortly after the old bill have sorted it. “One of the rat boys called me a fat cunt and I took offence!” replies the B Team’s top darter. I can’t resist. “What for? You are a fat cunt!”. I know, I know. Sitter. But sometimes, you just have to take the chances that come your way! This little handbags means the young’uns are escorted to the station to be put on the 11 past 5 back to Nottingham. We meanwhile head straight back to the Railway for a quick pint aiming for the next one half an hour later. This is no issue and we’re in place on the platform in plenty of time. Back into Nottingham, we disembark and head for the Canal House, but along the way we find the pavement full of geezers barring the way. “Are they staring at us?” asks Mr X before answering his own query “I think they are staring at us!”. Turns out there’s no threat at all as they’d correctly guessed we might be Sutton and wanted to congratulate us for doing over an old rival. Refusing kind offers of drinks etc, we carry on our way with a round of applause from the grateful locals ringing in our ears!

Who’s Paul??
They still make this. We know!

Sadly, the Canal House is busy and they’re not letting in any more ‘large groups’. Even Mr X’s attempts to sweet talk the doorman with “What if we say we don’t know each other?” fails, so we head into the boozer next door instead and get some beers on the go. Here a “Shot for the stag each round” system is implemented. The problem is, he insists on it being one for whoever buys the round too. Sadly, this means I have to lead by example and neck a jaeger. Mr X is next and with no ‘Sourz’ type stuff available, he takes the barman’s recommendation of some white rum that smells like paint stripper and that neither he or Dukey remotely enjoy. The smell is so bad in fact that the non-smokers breathe a sigh of relief when the smokers spark up immediately after. We’d rather have the waft of Dukey’s cheap duty frees than that!! Here we chat general bollocks, catch up with Pornstar, his missus and Nutsack. We also pay some attention to a cockerpoo called Max who is present. Everyone loves a fluffy doggo after 3 points in a play off race! Slowly, we drift away to get food, 4Days heads for his train back to London and eventually, it’s just Me, Mr X and Dr Bell lagging behind. We walk up to Market Square and fuel up on 5 Guys, which the good Doctor has never tried before and with his seal of approval, we head back to digs for a quick Carshalton shower, a change of top and meet up at the Bell pub nearby.

As it turns out, everyone else ahead is late getting sorted and they then spear off into Las Iguanas for some cocktails. We insist on pubbage and with the stag in tow, we head into the Bell for one. We’re soon joined by a couple of others before 10pm nears and Greek shoos us all back outside for a night of frivolity VIP style at the local Pop World. Now, this ain’t usually my cup of tea and after 2 heavy intakes over 24hrs, I’m starting to flag a bit. But, I stick it out for Dukey and before long we’re inside with buckets of WKD (yes, they do still make that) and bopping along to all the hits the kids like, not feeling at all far too old to be in here. WKD’s come and go and by half 12, I’m confronted by a lass in a bunny suit handing out mini chocolate eggs and I decide at this point to run up the white flag under the valid, but lame excuse of “Got to drive tomorrow!” and hit the road leaving Dukey to his increasingly shot based future at the hands of Nat and Ossie. Steve, with a similar vehicular challenge tomorrow is fully on board with the escape tactic and we hike back to the hotel for some much needed z’s.

The bar’s well stocked at this casino, but the croupier’s are shit….
Yes, that is a BMW indicating!

I awake at 9am thanks to my alarm and heading for a pee, I rub my head wondering why on earth it really doesn’t hurt at all. It really should, as I’ve spent the best part of 13 hours on the lash yesterday after a reasonably heavy night before that. Maybe there’s life in the old dog yet! There’ll certainly be paracetamol in the old dog too shortly. I’m not taking any chances! Breakfast follows and I hit the buffet to find Dukey piling up the full English after finally extracting himself at around half 2. Don’t go taking all the bacon now you greedy bastard! As we eat, (Not Irish) Pete reveals he’s tested positive for the ‘rona for the 11th straight day (“Call Guinness” and “You’re just fucking milking this now” being some of the responses he received) and Greek tells me the tale of two lasses arm wrestling in a pool of sick at the club last night, which is just what you want over the breakfast table. Face stuffed, we bid farewell to Steve who’s South coast bound for the Saints game later and we head upstairs to pack our shit and follow suit. For the trip back, Loffers is jumping in the Tazmobile with myself and Dr Bell as her ride up Lee is heading further north for Ipswich’s game at Rotherham today. The idiot. Stuff packed, sat nav shouted at and car put on the road, we head for the M1 and having topped off the petrol supplies, we’re on our way back to civilisation.

Fortunately, the ride back is far better than the way up and it’s not until just before Northampton that we hit trouble. Here we do a quick pee and tea stop at a services packed full of Man City fans heading to Wembley for the FA Cup semi this afternoon before hitting the road once more. Sadly, the M25 puts a stop to our serene progress and shortly after half 2 having tipped my passengers at their chosen abodes, I’m parking up outside HQ after another long awayer. I stumble in through the door, dumping bags and kicking off my shoes. “Did you have a good time?” enquires my beloved.

“Can’t talk love, need a piss!”


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