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Saturday 10th August 2013 ko 19.00

Northern League Division One

PENRITH AFC 2 (Rigg 35 71)

NEWTON AYCLIFFE 4 (Earl 19 21 Owens 59 86)

Att 380

Entry £5

Programme £1 (?)

Team Sheet 20p

The trip east from Whitehaven was memorable for the views of Bassenthwaite Lake, and given that I arrived at Penrith AFC a good hour before kick-off I wish I’d stopped for a few photos.

You are now in the Eden Valley, just north of the River Eamont, and since you’re less than 3 miles north of the boundary of the Lake District National Park, the view from the main stand at Frenchfield Park is spectacular! Even behind the goal, the cows took an agricultural, if slightly dismissive view of proceedings.

The common theme of narrow approach roads was kept up, as the stadium is to be found along a well-maintained lane at the bottom of Carleton Road, in the small village of Carleton, a mile or two outside Penrith itself. You pass a multiplicity of pitches, and a clubhouse used by local clubs in the Westmorland League and I’d imagined ticking off Penrith AFC as part of a double involving one of these! Still, I did beat that idea with a hugely enjoyable treble!

It is all in complete contrast to Southend Road, Penrith’s former home in the centre of town. That was compact, homely and full of character, but times change and other than the unsympathetic location, no passing trade here, the ground will be suitable for the club even if they seek promotion, not a regular occurrence in this league.

My abiding memory of my previous visit to Penrith is of a friendly hospitable club, and that hasn’t changed in the decade-or-so since, but what surprised me was the almost complete lack of forward planning for their big day.

The programmes ran out just after I arrived which was plain silly, as there were few people in the ground at that point. Other than the 110 pre-booked programmes there cannot have been more than 40 extra produced, which is pitifully too little. The club were quickly reduced to taking monies with names and addresses so that the reprinted edition can be sent out in the next few days. The excuse given was that they’d printed far too many for the recent friendly against Carlisle United, but surely they must have known that 110 pre-booked tickets adds up to a 300-plus crowd?

League General Secretary Mike Amos mentioned in his blog that the meat and potato pie here is the stuff of legend. That will stay a legend for many, as the food ran out well before kick-off, and doing burgers with a 15-minute waiting list will simply push custom to the local fish and chip shops, or in my case the perennially excellent Tebay Services.

The club badges had been left at a club officials house, and once obtained, all SIX (!) of them were quickly snapped up. I saw no other mechandise on sale, save for the much appreciated team-sheets for 20p a time. The PA announcer was keen to state how the visitors should enjoy the hospitality and tell them where they were going wrong. Sad to say, but by that stage it was far too little, far too late. One hopper, notorious for telling Chris and I how to run our events was notably quiet. Still with organisers Harvey Harris and Mike Amos at the helm they’ll have learned from this day and I’m sure the next event in the series, based in Newcastle will be a massive improvement. Mike in particular will know, he invented the organised hop after all!

It was such a shame as the game was fantastic, easily the best of the three. Newton Aycliffe raced into a 2-goal lead, Daniel Earl netting twice in two minutes, before Penrith struck back before half-time through Steven Rigg, and at that point Penrith looked able to overhaul their deficit. Instead it was Aycliffe who restored their two goal cushion through Jamie Owens and although Rigg pulled another goal back for Penrith, Owens notched his second to win the game for the impressive visitors.

It proved to be an exciting finale to an excellent day’s football. Yes the organisation at the last two games left a little to be desired, but that didn’t detract from a hugely enjoyable day. I know how difficult it is to organise a groundhop, and so all of our party would like to thank Mike Amos and Harvey Harris for setting up this day and I hope that the hopping world will support their next event.

Speaking of groundhopping events, our next one is only 2 weeks away. Ticket sales have hit new records, and once again we’ll be running two coaches. There’s not long left to book your advance ticket (which guarantees a programme), and for this year day passes are available for those only able to attend certain days. For further information just email Chris Berezai on groundhopuk@yahoo.com. For those already coming, see you firstly at Greenfield, and then for breakfast at Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.