July 5 2018: Dripping yarns

Tow Law Town secretary Steve Moralee sends the results of (another) on-line poll to find football’s most scenic non-league ground.

Lawyers came but third, behind Malvern – where I’ve watched cricket, but never football – and Wearside League club Richmond Town, where I’ve watched both cricket and football and morris dancing, too.

Richmond, of course, have the marked advantage of that wonderful castle as backdrop, but the marked disadvantage that no planning authority on earth would let them erect floodlights or a grandstand in front of it.

After many years trying, they’re apparently on the verge of relocating to a new home at the town’s comprehensive school, allowing them at last to go up in the world

Others in the top ten include Matlock (10th), Padiham (9th) and Mossley (6th) and in eighth place Lewes – where, coincidentally, Tow Law had themselves played in the last 16 of the Vase on a wet February afternoon in 2002.

The ground’s called the Dripping Pan: explanations vary.

It’s the county town of Sussex, locally pronounced as in Lewis, so that when someone shouted “Come on, Lewis” you half expected Kevin Whateley to come trotting like some Oxonian lapdog at the behest of his imperious chief inspector.

Among the town’s claims to fame is the annual bonfire night celebration, at which an effigy of the Pope is carried through the streets and set light in memory of the occasion in 1757 when Paul IV ordered that 17 Protestant refuseniks (is that the word?) should be burned at the stake in the town.

Several bonfire societies have quasi-military watchwords like “Death or glory” and, possibly “Nope, Pope”, though memory suggests that such exuberance has latterly been opposed by the more religiously squeamish.

At any rate, Tow Law chairman John Flynn looked distinctly uncomfortable, as well a good Catholic might have done.

The Lawyers were managed by the unforgettable Dr Graeme Forster, accompanied  as always at that time – by the alluring Amanda, a Morticia to his Gomez.

They’d travelled on Newcastle United’s motor home, stopped overnight at a hotel in Dunstable, were collectively awoken at 2am by a feckless fire alarm, as a result of which Steve Moralee negotiated free breakfast for all.

“Shy bairns get nee sweets,” he said, by no means for the first or last time.

Soon down to ten, Lawyers held on at 1-1 until the closing minutes when Lewes hit three more. As the man in the song very nearly said, every which way but Lewes.