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The Non-League Paper’s Diary of a Groundhopper: AFC Mansfield

The Non-League Paper’s Diary of a Groundhopper – Tuesday January 21: AFC Mansfield 1 Notts County 3
One of my old Notts County mates texts me with what he and I consider to be huge football news: Notts County have been drawn away to AFC Mansfield in the Notts Senior Cup.
Over the years, we have followed the Magpies to over 130 League Grounds, some tasty grounds in the Anglo-Scottish Cup, abroad in the Anglo-Italian Cup and even places such as Bahrain, Gibraltar and Juventus for friendly games. Madness!
I have since been cured of my addiction to County, only following them to League grounds I haven’t seen them on and on special occasions. In my mind, a local cup tie with Northern Counties East League Premier Division side AFC Mansfield is just such a special occasion.
I have, of course, visited The Forest Town Arena, pictured, before. I vaguely remember it’s easy to find the site but not the actual entrance.
My recollection of problems accessing the compound at Forest Town are correct. My feeble brain thinks it went one way but when I drive that route, I then remember it isn’t that way at all. I make a U-Turn in exactly the same place I always do. Sigh.
I eventually find my way into the clubhouse where I get involved in some lively banter between the locals. This is great!
The clubhouse, however, is a long way from the main stadium facilities. I follow my nose through the turnstile (£7) to another clubhouse in the ground.
The second clubhouse is very plush with a wide wooden decking at the front to accommodate fans. Below are a wide terrace and a seated stand. I follow the perimeter fence and arrive at the food bar, office and changing rooms situated behind the goal.
Again, there is plenty of enjoyable banter with club officials along with some good football chatter. A nicer welcome one couldn’t wish to encounter!
As I am eating my excellent burger and chips when I meet up with a few of my Notts County pals. When I ask them how County are playing these days, the reply comes: “It isn’t great”.
I also find out that I have been overcharged for my programme. I paid £2.50 earlier but apparently it should have only been £2. After this welcome, I decide not to quibble over the honest mistake. As recompense, I am soon in possession of a colour teamsheet, so I’m happy.
I watch the match from the high terrace under the second clubhouse. Early on, County take advantage of Mansfield’s inability to keep a tight line at the back and ease into a two-goal lead.
Notts stop playing for a while allowing The Bulls back into the tie with a sloppy goal before half time. The home side really go for it in the second half and make Notts sweat for a bit. A third away goal eases the nerves and County are through to the fifth round.
I remember the way out but will definitely forget the way in again should I visit a fifth time!
Groundhopper ratings
Pre-Match info:
Welcome: 10
Facilities: 6
Food: 7,
Charm: 6.5
Programme: 7,
Home Team Respect: 4,
Home Fans: 6
Match: 7
Overall: 7
Officials: 8.5
Att: 220
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As well as exclusive match reports and pictures from all of Saturday’s fixtures in the Vanarama National League, the BetVictor-Sponsored Isthmian League, Southern League and Northern Premier League, the paper’s live coverage extends all the way to Steps 5 and 6.

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