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Sunday 3rd August 2014 ko 11.00

United Counties League Premier Division

PETERBOROUGH NORTHERN STAR 1 (MacLeod 8) Clay sent off 21 (denying clear goalscoring..) Stebbing sent off (2nd booking)

HOLBEACH UNITED 6 (Beeson 22p Fuller 34 Parker 49 Dube 71 78 Spencer 90)

Att 357

Entry £6

Programme £1

Badge £3

Picture the scene; Chris Berezai and I are at a GroundhopUK planning meeting with the host clubs on this hop. We’re new to each other, none of these clubs has ever seen a hop game, let alone participated in one, so at the end of it all, I wanted to give the clubs an idea of what good looks like.

“Imagine,” I said, “A family fun day with a football match with in the middle, get the community involved, a bit like a fete.”

I turned to the PNS delegation, ” You’ve got loads of room at Chestnut Avenue, you could do it really well, you could even have a bouncy castle.”

I was joking about the last bit, but as the coach pulled up outside the Mick George Arena, I could see the unmistakable wobble of a bouncy giraffe. I didn’t know whether to laugh or be worried, in the end I did both. We walked in and before Chris and I were whisked away to hospitality (little or nothing separates me from a chicken goujon) I spotted the poster outside, that had been replicated many times locally. The club had grasped the concept completely and the reason they got the biggest UCL crowd of the weekend was in no little part to them getting the community involved.

We’ve seen it before, at St Dogmaels and at Berinsfield and like those before the sheer charm of their efforts earned them both income and praise. The officials were just about to pin up the team sheets, but were able to print off further copies at will. They actually debated whether to sell them, so if you objected to paying 10p for information you could get for free elsewhere, do feel free to complain to me!

Sadly Star’s excellent staging wasn’t replicated on the pitch, although I do feel that anyone who finishes above Holbeach may well win the league. They passed Star off the pitch, with the first sending off, Jonny Clay’s, being for tripping the last man. The resulting penalty cancelled out Jordan MacLeod’s early strike, and Holbeach never looked back.

Goals came at regular intervals and that process was accelerated by Phil Stebbing’s dismissal for two bouts of unsporting conduct. 6-1 was a fair reflection on the passage of play, but despite that I cannot see Star being anywhere other than the top half of the table, no side in the UCL can hope to hold back Holbeach with 9 men.

When it was all over, I made a point of thanking the PNS officials for an exceptionally well staged game. Perhaps they didn’t know it when I left, but they set a gold standard for the UCL hop. I just hope that bouncy castle made them plenty of money!