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Saturday 26th October 2013 ko 13.15

Northern League Division Two

WEST ALLOTMENT CELTIC 0

NORTH SHIELDS 0

Att 429

Entry £5

Programme £1

Badge £2.50

Teamsheet 10p

The journey from Heaton to West Allotment was the longest of the hop, a full 1.3 miles by road, and considerably shorter by foot, and it was amusing to see the stream of hoppers with their printed-out maps cutting through the parks and alleyways between the grounds.

Those short distances had given hop organiser Harvey Harris a dilemma. Transport between the games is a staple of the serious organised hop, but since it was possible to walk the entire hop there was a case for not bothering. But since some folk either don’t want to walk, or are less fleet of foot, Harvey came up with an ingenious solution. He used Newcastle Benfield’s team minibus. It was cheap, just £3 each to cover the diesel, and did the job admirably well. It’s a idea we at GroundhopUK will consider if we ever encounter something similar.

It’s fair to say that Heaton Stannington were always going to see the most hoppers. Any team new to a league will attract those who’ve done everything else, and many disappeared to the Northern Alliance game at nearby Newcastle Chemfica nearby. The beauty of this tie is that it was a real derby and both clubs supplied plenty of fans, boosting the crowd to the highest of the hop. Enthuse the locals and the host club always does well.

Whitley Park is also the Northumberland FA ground, so the facilities are excellent. There’s a leisure centre next door which reminded me of Whitley Bay’s Hillheads Park with its Ice Rink. The club did extremely well with its merchandise stall and the teamsheets at 10p were an excellent idea. The pie and chips sold well, but serving them through a hatch meant only one person at a time could be served and there was a long queue throughout my time there.

The best feature of the ground is the grass bank along one touch-line. I’ve not met anyone who likes the type of pre-fabricated stands seen at Whitley Park, but the bank gives them excellent sight-lines. The view is quite something, with Newcastle United’s training ground and the floodlights of Team Northumbria’s Coach Lane ground all clearly visible.

The programme was easily the best of the hop. Glossy, and well laid out, it was the kind of issue you see produced by fully professional clubs, not those a Step 6! However there was one paragraph that I was extremely disappointed in. Rottweiler’s notes on the committee meetings held planning this game comment as follows,

Difficult decision in deciding how many programmes to print and the Northern League won’t assist towards the cost of printing them. So if we don’t have enough printed will just explain to ground hoppers about Northern League’s decision not to assist us.”

Now apart from the adage about not washing your dirty linen in public, Rottweiler seems to have forgotten that Harvey and the League gave the club the opportunity to write themselves a four-figure cheque in giving them a hop game. Clubs normally sell advertising in the programme to help pay for its production, but even if that isn’t forthcoming, to complain in a programme that potentially some won’t be able to read, is at best asinine and at worst a case of biting the hand that feeds. Still, I didn’t hear that anyone was unable to purchase a programme so clearly the production costs were found from somewhere.

The game could have been a classic, two rivals seeking promotion battling it out for supremacy but on a pitch that rapidly cut up neither side could find the finishing touch to their forays forward. After a spirited opening, the game deteriorated into a dour midfield battle, and a nil-nil draw looked inevitable well before the end.

Of course, the two things Harvey cannot have organised were the weather and the quality of the game, and I’m sure he was grateful that the weather held. After all, there aren’t many grounds at this level that can keep a 400-plus crowd dry!