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Saturday 3rd December 2011 ko 2.00pm

Central Midlands League Southern Section

BELPER UNITED 1 (Wadsworth 72) Smith sent off 45 (violent conduct)

SUTTON TOWN AFC 2 (Buchanan 15 Hollingworth 38)

Att 45 (h/c)

Entry/Programme/Raffle £1

Tea £1

After the morning game at Loughborough University, the 30 mile drive to the Derbyshire town of Belper was straightforward. The town’s name is thought to be a corruption of Beaurepaire – meaning beautiful retreat – the name given to a hunting lodge, the first record of which being in a charter of 1231.

The industrialist Jedediah Strutt, a partner of Richard Arkwright, built a water-powered cotton mill in Belper in the late eighteenth-century: the second in the world at the time. With the expansion of the textile industry Belper became one of the first mill towns. In 1784 Strutt built the North Mill and, across the road, the West Mill. In 1803 the North Mill was burnt down and replaced by an new structure designed to be fireproof. Further extensions followed, culminating in the East Mill in 1913 – a present-day Belper landmark. Although no longer used to manufacture textiles the mill still derives electricity from the river, using turbine-driven generators.

In 1938, local firm A.B.Williamson had developed a substance for conditioning silk stockings – the introduction of nylon stockings after the Second World War seemed to make it redundant, but mechanics and fitters had discovered its usefulness in cleaning hands and it is still marketed by Deb Group as Swarfega.

However Paul and I’s reason to be there was simple, the town’s second football team will be moving off their ground at the end of the season, and Alton Manor isn’t being featured on March’s Central Midlands Hop.

You wonder what Alton Manor would have looked like before the housing estates that will eventually swallow it up were built. Its compact, and has seen earthworks to create enough pitch space from side-to-side. Its railed, with a cramped octagonal changing room block. The only toilet is within this, and it was locked during the game. To allow elevation from the Midland Regional Alliance to this season’s Central Midlands League a small shelter has been cobbled together from 4 sheets of corrugated iron, Catering was being provided by a burger van.

As part of the planning agreement the builders who will bulldoze the ground were to provide a replacement ground. A wrangle over land ownership means that this isn’t going to happen so United are eyeing a little used ground in town. Apart from a few other hoppers, two of which were looking to head for the second half at Holbrook after this encounter, also present was Frank Harwood, League chairman for the last 30 years, and who is helping out Rob Hornby with this year’s groundhop. He took great delight in telling Paul, at his first CMFL game, all about the league and its history.

The game was a bruising encounter, with language as violent as the challenges. The referee missed a blatant penalty for Belper early on, then Sutton scored with a curling shot from the right. The lead was doubled, direct from a free kick, but by this time it was clear that it would only be a matter of time before industrial football and a young referee would ignite this tinderbox. It happened on the stroke of halftime, when Belper’s Matt Smith was scythed down whilst running through. He got up and immediately punched his assailant, sparking a melee. Its was obvious he had to receive his marching orders, which he did, but how the referee failed to find another card I’ll never know!

This set the tone for the second half which was largely ill tempered and it was clear that the visitors believed the game was won. Belper did enough in midfield to have stolen (mugged?) a point and should really have equalised, wasting a string of chances including one that almost defied belief.
The home fans were increasingly upset at the referee, leading to some great comments. One one-eyed local called referee Ollie Bickle  “A useless bloody article” and then better still “You make a T*** look normal” Although I’m not sure what’s abnormal about one of those!

So an entertaining game but I’m not convinced that Frank Harwood would have wanted a game like this as Paul’s first ever game in his league!