Patrick Lay on the day out at the world’s oldest Football League club.  Sat 31 Oct 2015: Notts County 2 Pompey 1 – 6,917 (2,162 away).

Notts County is a must visit for me as it’s one of the best grounds in the lower leagues and very accessible (just an hour from Birmingham) so I had the luxury of not having to leave New Street station until circa midday.

On arriving, I was due to meet my good mate Steve Barker @BarkerboySteve who had also travelled on the ‘iron road’ that day although from Fratton it took him a tad longer. Giving the date on the calendar, I couldn’t resist being clichéd and put on my vivid green mask as a ‘surprise’ (see pic below) just prior to getting off the train, but Steve (having known me for over 25 years) sussed straight away it was me, oh well.

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With 2 hours until KO we tried to find the grade II listed Bell Inn as I had heard this is another pub that claims to be Nottingham’s oldest pub. The other being the Ye Olde Trip to Jerusulam which we both frequented after the Nottingham Forest game 3 years ago. Either way, at least we could say we had been to the oldest pub in the city – if not the world?

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Having ran a bit close for time after I got our geography wrong in finding the pub, we only had time for the one drink (a zesty blood orange Bulmers cider seemed fitting for 31st October). It was then back past the train station taking in some of the lace market city’s sights en route to the stadium.

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After making good use (as one does at football) of one of the burger vans within the Meadow Lane vicinity, we entered the turnstiles around 14:45 so just time for another drink. Cheers.

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It was my first visit to the world’s oldest Football League club since we won by a ‘Super Walshie’ goal to nil in April 93 – our ‘Oh so near’ promotion to the Premier League season. The stadium had just been redeveloped back then and was mega impressive for that era and the size of the club. It still looks the part now but whether it justifies £24 a ticket for League 2 football is another matter.

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With the sun beaming heavily in to our eyes, out came the teams to the usual passionate Pompey reception and then a minute’s silence to remember the fallen as part of Remembrance Day.

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The Spion Kop – packed to the rafters with Pompey fans on my last visit.

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Onto the game then, it proved to be an open match that Pompey had the better of the chances, but the tale of 2 free kicks proved to be our undoing in our first away defeat of the season.

We kicked off attacking the goal to our left (as pictured below) and twice almost took the lead, Adam Webster flashed his header just wide from Ben Davies’ corner, then on 8 minutes, a fine through ball by Adam McGurk to Gareth Evans was blocked by Roy Carroll and if the ricocheted ball had fell anywhere in Evans sight it was a certain goal, but before he could see the ball it was cleared to safety by Alan Sheehan – a name that would haunt us later in this Halloween afternoon…

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Meanwhile former Pompey loanee Izale McLeod saw his goal disallowed for offside. Pompey took the lead on 19 minutes when some fine build up play on the left wing with Kyle Bennett and Enda Stevens saw Stevens move into the box and his square pass was nudged home by on loan Sheffield Wednesday striker Caolan Lavery – his first goal for us.

However the joy of the 2,162 Pompey fans (nearly a third of the gate) was short lived as just 3 mins later. Christian Burgess was booked for handball and from Alan Sheeran’s lofted free kick, Graham Burke skillfully brought the ball down and half volleyed into the top corner – a cracking equaliser from the edge of the box, very ‘Mendesesque’.

Both sides had their chance to go into half time in front, most notably Adam Webster (as quoted on a YouTube video) did a “Lionel Messi impression”. He collected the ball in his own half and snaked his way down the right ring past 3 players only for his angled shot to be finger tipped onto the post by Roy Carroll.

1-1 at half time.

In the second half, both sides continued to press and more goals certainly promised with a few shots coming in from both sides. It was on 77 mins when the next goal arrived and again it was that man Alan Sheeran. There didn’t seem a massive amount to fear when he again lofted in a free kick from in front of the centre circle, but his left footed ball ghosted it’s way past everyone including Brian Murphy as suddenly defeat to the north of Hilsea Lido beckoned for the first time this season. Matt Tubbs was instantly called into action as a substitute, but was unable to make a difference as the Magpies held onto win 2-1.

Well just 2 defeats from 16 games in League 2 and the team still in the 3rd automatic promotion zone is no disaster but we have to improve at home now as this fine run on the road had to end.

After the game, me & Steve went to a post match AGM for the ‘Northern Blues’ at the Ye Olde Salutation Inn (another of the city’s fine historic pubs) and saw some familiar faces I know such as David Richardson but could only stay until 7pm before catching my train back to the 2nd city.

A tribute to Bobby Campbell RIP:-

At the time of writing this, we have beaten Macclesfield Town 2-1 in the FA Cup 1st round. However, there was sad news today as we learnt of the passing of former Pompey player and manager Bobby Campbell. The 78 year old will always be remembered for masterminding our old Division 3 championship winning season 1982-83, the exciting football we played and the iconic signings, most notably Alan Biley, Neil Webb & Mark Hateley in his 2 years in charge.

My brother Nick suggested for the match against AFC Wimbledon next weekend (especially with it being televised) Pompey fans should do a minute’s chant of “There’s only one Bobby Campbell” after 83 minutes – a lovely tribute that would be to a wonderful man.

Get in touch on Twitter @PompeyNewsNow or via email pompeynewsnow@gmail.com if you would like to share your blog or fancy covering a game this season.

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