Saturday 2nd August 2014 ko 13.45
Peterborough & District League Premier Division
RIVERSIDE 3 (Dello Russo 4 Lancaster 40 Donohoe 90p)
UPPINGHAM TOWN 1 (Binley 62)
I was a little nervous as the coach left Leading Drove, for the mile-or-so journey to Daimler Avenue also in Yaxley. Its not as though GroundhopUk hadn’t organised games at lower levels of the game, will we ever visit a club of lower status than say Uffington United? It wasn’t as if the people at Riverside weren’t obviously up for the challenge, I’d enjoyed their company and admired their ideas at the club meetings, but I was very aware that we were at least in part taking some people out of their comfort zones.
I should explain; there is a strand of hopping that only deals in enclosed grounds. The phrases uttered tend to be along the lines of, “I want to see a stand,” or ” That’s just a field, ” and these kind of hoppers tend to restrict their activities to Steps 1 to 6, around here that would equate to the Conference Premier down to United Counties League Division One. There was also the issue of where exactly the club were playing too! We’d established that Queen’s Park, and Daimler Avenue are the same ground. Queen’s Park is in Daimler Avenue, but the 2014/2015 handbook has the club based in the City of Peterborough Academy. We checked, and checked again, and it transpires that the club are moving there imminently as it will allow all the teams to play at one location. It meant that this game was a “Last chance to see,” fixture and I was certainly happy to see the queue of traffic as the coach reached Daimler Avenue.
I’d spent part of the journey over from Yaxley FC explaining to Polish hopper Radoslaw Rzeznikiewicz where in the pecking order the Peterborough & District League sits. I started with the Premier League and worked down, to level 10. I wondered what he was thinking, given the above, but he simply gave me a taciturn nod of the head, smiled and allowed me a one word comment, “Cool!”
The attendance surprised me, and so did the entry fee! We ask clubs to charge a minimum amount, so that the prebooked ticket offers a discount, and while the £5 fee didn’t seem to put anyone off, it was higher than Peterborough Sports charged later in that day. Still, anything that makes the club money I’m all for, and the ticket holders saw a substantial saving. The programme run of 200 sold out very early, and whilst we were able to find a few spare programmes, the club had sent us a few too many for the programme packs, it proved once again that if a programme is of paramount importance to you, buy a ticket! You can buy individual games too!
The club coped admirably with the bumper attendance. The suggestion we made that hoppers love real ale was adopted and there was always a queue for a bottle of locally produced beer. I’m beginning to really like baked potatoes as means of catering. We are actively encouraging a vegetarian option at all clubs we take the hop to, and the humble spud offers a multiplicity of options as to what to add to it! With Terry’s Badges and Rob Hornby’s charity programme stall set up there was a convivial atmosphere, despite Uppingham having to make a late switch, Matt Hill being caught in M25 traffic!
Even if the “ground” itself was no more than a roped off pitch with a couple of gazebos at the half-way line the quality of play was no worse than we saw a Peterborough Sports that evening, one division higher, and on every hoppers’ supposed radar. Riverside were deserved winners, and when the torrential rain arrived with 20 minutes left looked reasonably comfortable at 2-1. The gazebos soon resembled one of those “See how many students can fit in a mini” you used to see in the 80’s, and many others scattered to find shelter, any shelter.
Many missed out on the coup de gras, Uppingham keeper Tom Hubbard was sent off for hauling down Klodjan Memaj when last defender, and Sam Donohoe smashed in the resulting spot kick. Soon after it was all over, and I like many squelched back to the coach. Who said this groundhopping lark was easy?