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Friday 3rd April 2015 ko 11.30

Northern Counties East League Premier Division

BARTON TOWN OLD BOYS 0

CLEETHORPES TOWN 3 (Robertson 36 90 Grant 87)

Att 517

Entry £5

Programme £1.50

I woke up with a start in Wakeford, and I really must learn to put some clothes on before opening the curtains to check the weather. It was hammering it down with rain, and my torpor was only slightly eased during breakfast with the news that it wasn’t raining in Barton-upon-Humber. That ground had seen significant rainfall during the week and the last thing we wanted was a postponement. I was worried enough about Barton’s prospects anyway.

That worry had nothing to do with the club itself, but the fact that back in 2010 we’d used the ground as a precursor to the Central Midlands Hop after our original choice AFC Hull had forgotten to book their pitch in time at the University of Hull! It meant that the ground had seen significant numbers of hoppers, and I was worried that as a result many might opt to miss the game. We sold as many tickets for the game as everywhere else, but when the coach crossed the Humber Bridge and turned into Barton I saw the club’s banner for the game with the hashtag “#AimFor400.” I wondered…., and soon had a more pressing worry!

The coach pulled into the ground entrance, and driver Godfrey stopped to ask the steward where to park up. An alarm sounded, and Godfrey could not get the coach into gear, it transpired that a hose had ruptured, and so no air was reaching the hydraulics in general and the clutch specifically. We emptied the coach, and were thankful that there was just enough room for cars to leave the ground after the game as a new coach was despatched from Pontefract with mechanics to fix the stricken one!

My worries about the attendance were assuaged as soon as I entered the ground, the place was packed. What Barton had done was market the game beautifully, and as a top-of-the-table clash there was a sizable contingent from Cleethorpes too. For the groundhop organiser there’s a philosophical point here. In a bumper crowd what would you rather see, the majority hoppers, or the majority locals? The former is great for your ego, you can claim it was you who brought all those people there, but I’d far prefer this, the majority being locals. The nature of the hopper is that he won’t re-visit (although plenty did here!) but a well-presented game should convince locals to return for future games.

And despite the away win, I’d like to think that many Barton Town residents will do so, as this was an excellent way to spend a couple of hours in the company of a club right where they should be, at the very centre of their community. The curry and chilli sold as they should, quickly, on a chill morning, and Chris and I only really got the full idea of just how many people we had to count when the game kicked off.

Yes, Cleethorpes were too strong for their hosts, and in hot-shot Brody Robertson they have a real talent. But there’s reason to be thankful to Cleethorpes. There’s always an incentive for a club to host a game at an odd hour, but very little for the away club to agree. Normally there’s the promise of a future hop game to host, but with Town sharing the Bradley Football Centre with Grimsby Borough that spur wasn’t there. So many many thanks to them for their part in what was an incredible morning for everyone there.

Well not quite everyone I suppose! As we left there was two mechanics kneeing on some cardboard fixing our old coach, they looked to be having no fun whatsoever. I clambered on our new bus, grateful the depot hadn’t been further away.