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Saturday 30th March 2013 ko 11.30

Northern Counties East League Premier Division

BRIDLINGTON TOWN 3 (Phillips 20 Cook 35 Greening 56) Fleming sent off 82 (2nd booking)

SCARBOROUGH ATHLETIC 3 (Miller 19 Beadle 45 Blott 48)

Attendance 1,569

Entry £6

Programme £1.50

What better way to spend a Saturday morning than a trip to the seaside? Winding our way from Wakefield, near Driffield, and Wetwang, the weather was bright and sunny, completely removed from the freezing conditions of the previous day. Bridlington is a seaside resort and minor fishing port on the Holderness Coast of the North Sea. It is an area which is said to have the highest coastal erosion rate in Europe, and the fine sand is kept in place by thick groynes, which I remember clambering over as a small child during a summer holiday here.

I had a little trepidation over this fixture. Queensgate is a wonderful place to watch a game, full of the quirks I love in a ground, but the opposition would give the tie a completely different perspective than any other opponent. Apart from being near neighbours and tenants, Scarborough Athletic are a phoenix from the flames of a former League club, with a following to match. A four-figure crowd was a certainty, and with the locals certain to outnumber the hoppers, the whole atmosphere would be less groundhop, more local derby. To add yet more spice, the game pitched 2nd vs 1st too!

That of course is exactly how it transpired. Over 1,500 packed into the ground, and the atmosphere positively crackled. One patron blotted his copybook by swearing at both the Bridlington and Northern Counties League chairmen. His point was valid, his son, a child had been charged the £5 concession rate, and clearly was blaming the groundhop for this. For the record here’s what we put in our briefing notes to clubs, so I can only assume it was a oversight on the part of the gateman.

“Children are not included in this (there are virtually no hoppers of that age), and should be admitted free”.

Hopefully it didn’t detract from what was clearly the game of the hop. It was one of those games you couldn’t take your eyes off, not even for a minute. The visitors opened the scoring, Paddy Miller thumping home across home keeper Mark Wilberforce. The lead lasted less than a minute, as Chris Batchelor squared to Scott Phillips who finished well. The sides were keeping a frantic pace, and Nathan Cook did well to meet a throw in to head Brid’ into the lead. That in turn was levelled by Athletic as Wilberforce saved an effort from Plummer, but the ball spooned up enabling Jimmy Beadle to head in from close range.

Half time didn’t calm things down at all. Scarborough re-took the lead soon after the break. Former Leeds midfielder Tony Hackworth forced Wilberforce to narrow the angle but instead of shooting he found Ryan Blott who scored easily. Still Brid’ wouldn’t lie down and die, and Josh Greening equalised, lifting the ball over Aaron Reid in the Boro’ goal then touching it in.

When Brid’ midfielder Tom Fleming was sent off for his 2nd caution I honestly thought that Scarborough would find a 4th and win. Brid’ dug deep and despite losing Frank Belt to what looked like a broken elbow, they held on for a well-earned point.

After the game, we soon cleared the traffic and with a fair drive north to Pickering I had time to reflect on the game and its place in groundhop history. It was a wonderful event, and it’s always fantastic to see a non-league ground full and rocking. It also gave Chris and I an excellent steer on what to expect if we ever try to hold a hop in a league of higher status. Because, ultimately Bridlington and Scarborough are clubs destined to play at a higher level. The only question is when.