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Saturday 1st March 2014 ko 14.30

Northern League Division Two

STOKESLEY SPORTS CLUB 1 (Upton 67)

TOW LAW TOWN 2 (Thexton 18 26)

Att 189

Entry £4

Programme £1

Badge £3

Pie & Peas £2

The second game of the “Southern” day of the Northern League saw one of the league’s southernmost outposts. So much so the that the town is actually in North Yorkshire, more normally associated with the Northern Counties East league at this level of the game, although there’s been a fair amount of exchange over the years.

This is the land where Captain Cook grew up. He was born in nearby Great Ayton in the foothills of the North York Moors, and the distinctive Roseberry Topping hill, with its Matterhorn-esque silhouette as a background. It was once the symbol of the now defunct county of Cleveland and was in almost complete contrast with the petrochemical industrial backdrop of Redcar that we’d left behind. It’s fair to say that Broughton Road is a ground best visited in the light for the spectacular scenery behind.

Great Broughton is, incidentally where Brian Clough spent part of his early playing career before signing professional forms at Middlesbrough. The rest of course is history..

When staging a groundhop game, an organiser can point a club in the right direction, with tips on such things as merchandise and catering, but there’s one thing you can’t teach and that’s charm. Stokesley got all the basics right, the pie and peas in the clubhouse sold like, well pie and peas always does, but the club approached their day with a smile on their collective faces, and that made my day. Perhaps the best comment to make was that organiser Harvey Harris had to do nothing save for help out with the Northern League’s stall.

I was, however extremely disappointed with one part of Stokesley’s hop game, the attendance. A lot of hoppers wanted a return to the Northern League to catch-up with the grounds that have come into the league since the original hops back in the 1990’s, and some were extremely vocal in their opinions. Let’s put the attendance in perspective, just under a year ago we at GroundhopUK took the Easter Hop to North Yorkshire to Pickering, and the attendance was 302. I refuse to believe that we advertised the event any better than Harvey did, or that either League or organiser did anything to discourage attendance. Yes, if you schedule 3 games in a day you will always get drift, as hoppers find other games to replace the middle game. Some went to Richmond Town and I know one who went to West Auckland, but over 100 short of that Pickering game? It is I’m afraid a case of support these events or lose them.

The missing crowd missed a decent game too. Tow Law looked the sharper side and two goals from Dean Thexton in less than 10 minutes, the second powered in from a corner, swung the tie irrevocably in the Lawyers’ direction. Stokesley worked hard, and pulled a goal back through substitute Greg Upton but Tow Law held firm despite late home pressure.

It was a well staged game from a friendly club, at a ground they’re pulling out all the stops to improve. I just wish more had supported them in their endeavours.