FOOTBALL: There are so many ingredients that make a trip to a football match all the more enjoyable for me, writes Mark Hearle.
One of them is chatting with complete strangers about the one thing that has brought us all together at that particular time – the wonderful game that is football.
Last weekend I was extremely lucky to travel to Wembley for the Liverpool versus Manchester City FA Cup semi-final. I witnessed an epic game played on a glorious Saturday afternoon on a carpet of a pitch in what is a tremendous theatre of a stadium.
Wembley looked an absolute picture and both teams played their part in a tremendous advert for the oldest cup competition in the world – indeed it is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year.
Liverpool ran out winners, thanks mainly to one of the most complete 45 minutes of football I have ever witnessed and an absolute howler of a mistake by City goalkeeper Zack Steffen, which allowed Sadio Mane one of the easiest goals he will ever score.
Ahead of the game, me and my chaperone for the day – my brother – got chatting to another pair of Reds supporters on the vast concourses of the stadium about all things football.
The main topic was, of course, the game we were about to witness but we also ended up talking non-League as well, as it turned out our fellow fans were also keen followers of Wrexham. Incidentally they are at Wembley soon when they take on Bromley in the FA Trophy final.
We chatted about everything from the Hollywood investment in their club to the recent game with Dover Athletic, which the hosts won eventually by an amazing 6-5 scoreline, despite the best efforts of Lynn’s loanee Michael Gyasi, who scored a treble for the visitors.
They also had a complementary word on the Linnets as well, who ventured across the border a few weeks back. Wrexham won the game 2-0 but the team’s fighting spirit and determination had been more than noted by the hosts who felt the visitors had given a good account of themselves.
It was a good way to spend 20 minutes-or-so and merely proved that you never know what you have in common with the person stood next to you, whatever the situation.
It could be all over tomorrow
FOOTBALL: It wasn’t the most memorable of Easters for Linnets supporters as Town went down to two, rather expected defeats.
Notts County, on a day that was anything but a Good Friday for Lynn, prevailed 4-1 and a solitary goal on Monday afternoon at The Walks was enough to give Grimsby Town the points.
Coupled with Aldershot collecting three precious points from a win against Yeovil on Friday, things again look bleak for Lynn.
The fixtures haven’t fallen kindly for the club and after two tough holiday games, Lynn could really have done without what looks another real battle on away soil at Dagenham & Redbridge tomorrow.
The Daggers are just outside the play-off places but have hit form just at the right time, including an amazing 7-3 win over Barnet last week in which Junior Morias (remember him?) hit a 12-minute treble.
If results go against the Linnets tomorrow, they could be relegated by 5pm.
That Lynn have been going toe-to-toe with some of the best teams in non-League football is testament to all concerned – from Tommy Widdrington and his coaching team to every member of the squad.
The great shame is that now, despite the strong flickers of hope just a few weeks back, it seems more likely than ever Lynn fans will be watching their team play level two football once more come August.
One thing that is certain is that between now and the end of the season in two weeks’ time at Wealdstone on May 7, the team will keep going to try to earn as many points as possible.
Over the last couple of months in particular, the connection between the players and supporters appears to have been restored after becoming somewhat strained in the early part of the season.
The connection between supporters and players is a crucial one. Without it the club is nothing.
Now it has been restored the connection must be maintained and made stronger, if at all possible.
I’ve said many times in this column that the club is often criticised, sometimes rightly, sometimes not, but I thought that the powers-that-be at The Walks got it spot on with the minute’s applause that took place for Lee Calton on the first anniversary of his untimely death.
The club encouraged supporters to applaud via various social media outlets eight minutes into Monday’s game with Grimsby Town at The Walks.
It was heartening to see both sets of supporters doing so, generating tremendous noise around the ground. I also noticed a lengthy forum trail of comments on a Grimsby site applauding the initiative and responding positively.
The ‘eight’ was in recognition of the 8:56 Foundation, set up in Lee’s memory to raise awareness of men’s mental health issues. It was the train time Lee and his mates often caught from Lynn railway station on their many away days together.
Further information on the charity can be found on the 856foundation.org.uk website.