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Tuesday 17th December 2013 ko 19.45

United Counties League Premier Division

SLEAFORD TOWN 2 (Siddons 15 Tunstall 86) B Greenwood sent off 80 (2nd booking)

WISBECH TOWN 4 (Jones 64p Reed 65 80 83)

Att 106

Entry £5

Programme £1

6 days earlier, Wavendon-based Chris Garner and I were thawing out after the game at Waltham Forest and we talked about where to head next. Between us we’ve visited around 1,900 grounds, and fortunately there’s very little duplication, but when he suggested Sleaford I reflected for a moment.

Chris didn’t know, but with my GroundhopUK hat on Chris Berezai and I had been talking to the United Counties League and one of their feeder Leagues the Peterborough & District League, about a potential groundhop starting in August next year. The UCL committee, I knew were meeting on Monday evening to make a final decision so me being at a UCL fixture the next day was either going to look like perfect timing or somewhat awkward. Fortunately, the groundhop proposal was passed, I’ll post the details at the end of this, and I was able to have a chat with both club and league officials during the game.

The town is in the North Kesteven district of Lincoln, and its roots (no pun intended) lie in agriculture, the area being famous for seed production. The local Tesco sits on the site of the former former Advanta Seeds site. The town in flat East Anglia is dominated by St Denys’, a Grade I listed Church of England church notable for having one of the oldest stone broach spires in England and an altar rail designed by Sir Christopher Wren.

Eslaforde Park, named after the Roman name for the town, is on the Boston Road on the eastern edge of Sleaford, the club moved to the purpose-built ground in 2007 after a 3-year stint at RAF Cranwell. The term “New-build” is usually enough to discourage the hardened hopper, as often the ground will lack the personality of a historic ground. And whilst there are the inevitable modular stands, behind one goal, and on the far side the ground is far better thought out than many new-builds I’ve seen. An example is the seated stand, so many have the dugouts positioned in front, impairing a low-slung view, here the dugouts are on the clubhouse side.

Speaking of the clubhouse, that was a warm and inviting place to visit, with the food being served both into the bar area, and out into the viewing area outside. I grabbed a coffee, regretted having arrived via the local chip shop and reflected on a ground that may not please the hopper who visits once, but is perfect for the club’s needs.

I do wonder whether the league officials thought I was trying to butter them up when I commented that the game was a fine advert for the United Counties League! Well chaps if you’re reading this, I’m now well out of range and that game was……a fine advert for the United Counties League. There were all the ingredients, skill, controversy, passion and commitment, as Wisbech finally overcame a brave Sleaford rear-guard action after the hosts took a surprise first half lead through Tom Siddons.

Its not often you see two former Football League players playing at Step 5, but former Lincoln City forward Tony Battersby and former Cardiff City striker Gavin Gordon for Wisbech and Sleaford respectively were not the star players on this cold evening. That undoubtedly was Wisbech winger Callum Reed, who hit a fabulous hat-trick. His first was tap-in, but the others were worthy of mention.

Sleaford’s Ben Greenwood picked up his second caution for a foul on Reed, and the resulting free-kick took sufficient a deflection to wrong-foot Matt Burkes in the home goal. However his third, a 20-yard blockbuster was fine goal to win a football match. Liam Tunstall’s response, on his return to the club was consolation but no more.

Of course as I started my long trip back to Oxford, my mind was of the hard work before next August, here’s the press release.

Initial details of a new groundhop for the 2014/15 season have been released today by the United Counties League, Peterborough and District Football League and GroundhopUK.
This new event will launch in August 2014, and will run as the “opening weekend” of the season. Each hop will feature a Friday evening game, four games on a Saturday, with a further two or three on the Sunday. 
Although still subject to final confirmation, the provisional schedule for the inaugural weekend is: Fri 1 August: Deeping Rangers Sat 2 August: Yaxley – Riverside – Netherton United – Peterborough Sports Sun 3 August: Peterborough Northern Star – Whittlesey United – Coates Athletic
The final game of the weekend is planned to be the “ground opener” of the new facilities at Coates.
GroundhopUK will organise the event in association with the UCL and PDFL; further details, along with transport and accommodation, will be announced in due course.

For further updates why not join our mailing list. Just email Chris Berezai on groundhopuk@yahoo.com We hope to see you there in August!