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Friday 24th April 2015 ko 19.30

Notts Senior League, Division One

ASHLAND ROVERS 3 (Allen 7 Dunn 86 87)

NEWARK FLOWSERVE 3 (Charlton 45 Boddy 50 72)

Att 297

Entry £3

Programme £1

Apart from really not wanting to organise a fourth hop in 8 weeks, having Rob Hornby’s annual jaunt around the Notts Senior League is a godsend for me. Apart from simply becoming a spectator only on a hop, I and everyone else can attend the games knowing that Rob will always make sure his event is run properly. He’s been doing it a long time, across the Central Midlands League and this league, and some of his ideas are now the staple of any hop worthy of the name. If like me you regard, for example, programme packs as the mark of a properly organised event, then thank the genial Mansfield resident. We talk, we co-operate and the events get better and better.

That’s not to say that Rob runs his events in exactly the same way as I or Chris Berezai do, and that’s one of many reasons why I love attending hops I don’t organise. Every single time I attend, I learn a little more, what works and what doesn’t, and how I can improve my offerings. This 5 game blast was no different.

In some ways this hop returned some of us back to one of our old stamping grounds. Kirkby-in-Ashfield used to have a team, Kirkby Town in the Central Midlands League, and I remember the coach arriving at the Summit Centre, with the club making precisely no money from the catering due an intransigent council, much along the same lines as we had with Grimsby Borough 3 weeks ago. On a more humorous vein, I do remember a young woman walking along the covered enclosure selling raffle tickets, but her sales pitch was to shout, “A pound a strip!” I swear I said nothing!

Sadly Kirkby Town are no more, and the Summit is now given over to caged 7 a side pitches, so the footballing interest is now centred around Kingsway Park. And what an odd place it is. On one hand it has the memorial gates, and open spaces you’d expect of a public park, but the pitch is caged on two sides! One end of that pitch is in a dreadful state, just dust, but that cage did allow the club to block off the near corner to take a gate.

Previous NSL Hops have been bedevilled with inaccurate teamsheets, so this year Rob co-opted a league official to travel round with a laptop and printer and produce them straight from the referee’s paperwork. It did the job, and proved to be the kind of idea I like to see. You see my take on the teamsheet is that I love to have one, but I do question whether the effort put in to produce them is worth it in terms of revenue raised. Let’s say that 100 are sold at 20p each at each game, so that produces £20. Is that worth the effort, when a whiteboard does the job just as well? Whatever the answer is, once again Rob has given me something to ponder!

I was less impressed with the use of burger and ice cream vans. The vans solve what clubs tend to see a problem, catering, but the truth of it is that normally food and drink done in-house raises more money than the gate money, and that goes double for hop clubs below Step 6, where the entry fee is likely to be low. Bringing in outside catering in effect is paying a third party to take your profit away for you, and when you’ve seen clubs like Cilgerran and Berinsfield make good money by doing their own catering you do tend to see the vans as a missed opportunity, even if I did throw away Berinsfield’s burger van quote at their first planning meeting!

Where this hop game will unquestionably be remembered is on the pitch. With Flowserve needing a win to gain a back-to-back promotion, they looked good to celebrate in front of a big crowd, finding themselves 2 goals up in the last 4 minutes. But Ashland rallied, scored twice, and so Flowserve will have to wait a little longer.

At the end there was a lovely moment. As well as the points, the game was played for the Norway Trophy. The cup was donated by Paul Nicholson in memory of his mother Joan who died last year. “Granny Groundhop” sitting quietly at the back of the stand was a feature of these events, and the trophy is a fitting way to remember her.