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Saturday 21st March 2015 ko 15.30

Lowland League

SELKIRK 1 (See 58)

THE SPARTANS 1 (Brown 84)

Att 281

Entry £5

Programme £2

With so much riding on this hop I was nervous as the coach left Innerleithen for our middle game of the day. It’s that word “middle” that’s key, on any organised groundhop you tend to see, “Drift” where hoppers find an alternative games for the middle game on a Saturday when the competition for them is at its greatest. The solution is to schedule 4 games so that the hopper has to miss 2 hop games to go elsewhere but the geography and the lack of floodlights at Selkirk’s Yarrow Park made that impossible.

I sat, riding shotgun in the courier seat on coach 2 and worried, would we see drift as bad as was the case at Whitehaven where roughly half the crowd had disappeared from the first game at Celtic Nation on Harvey Harris’ Northern Hop a couple of years ago? I looked for solace, found a little from the advance ticket sales, and hoped for the best.

The club deserved a good crowd too, chairman Ross Anderson was and is a gentleman, his plans were rock-solid, and him standing at the entrance to welcome touch from a classy man and a classy club.

The ground is interesting too, there can’t be too many out there who are adjacent to a battlefield. In 1645 the ground behind the clubhouse was the scene of the Battle of Philiphaugh where the Royalist Army of King Charles II was slaughtered by the Covenenters’ Army led Major General Leslie as part of a war that was basically about which bible should be used in Scottish churches! The impact today is that if the club wants to do any building work the archaeologists will have to agree first!

Yarrow Park is only 12 years old, the club led a rather nomadic existence before that, and the plans for the future include a 3G pitch for next season, and floodlights the season after with the long-term aim being elevation to the Scottish League. I found the club’s enthusiasm infectious, and soon enough I was roped in to put the team line-ups on a whiteboard evacuated from the home dressing room!

As the game kicked off I was finally able to consider what was going on. Thankfully we’d lost very few hoppers to drift, and those that were there were being treated to some superb hospitality. Chicken curry for £2 was an absolute bargain, and the cider drinkers loved the Magniers at £1 a bottle. Did I mention the home-made cake as well? Not a day for those watching their weight!

I finally managed to have a good look round when Chris and I did the crowd count. I suspect many may see the Arena stand and wince, I chose to admire the view behind!  I loved the decking terrace, straight out of the School of Ingenuity, and it was a popular place to view the action in the spring sunshine.

When we first put this hop together I fully expected The Spartans to win the league, to the extent that I wondered whether not having them as a host club this time was a mistake. They are one of the bigger clubs in this league, their time will come, but Selkirk made them work hard for their point. The fact that the title is now beyond them does mean we can feature them next time round though!

At the end of proceedings I strolled back to the coach relieved that the attendance had held up so well, and pleased that Selkirk had presented themselves in the best possible light. It was time to head to the ground I’d heard so much about…