Saturday 1st August 2015 ko 10.45
Peterborough & District League Premier Division
KETTON 2 (Waldron 32 Brockbank 83p)
NETHERTON 2 (Randall 16 Rankin 65)
When we at GroundhopUK took on a the task of organising a hop for the United Counties and Peterborough Leagues, one area loomed large and that was the tiny county of Rutland. The tradionally smallest county in the UK intrigued Chris Berezai and I, and when I paid Uppingham Town a visit around 4 years ago, I wrote an article titled “Rutland Weekend Television.” a nod to Eric Idle’s 1970’s humorous TV show. So when we agreed the hop we were able to see if we could organise a groundhop exclusively in Rutland but was it even possible?
It transpired that it wasn’t. Despite spinning “Rutland Weekend Television,” into “Rutland Weekend Groundhopping” we soon discovered that Cottesmore play in the Leicestershire Senior League, a real shame as they have floodlights, Uppingham Town turned us down for reasons unfathomable, and Rutland Dead Rabbits (!) were unable to host a game. So we ended up with just two clubs in Rutland, Ketton and Oakham, I hope no one minded!
It was a convivial party that left our base at Moulton College. We had a new coach company which meant a new driver, Paul who it transpired isn’t a football fan. You may think that’s a disadvantage on a job like this but its quite handy. All too often the driver has to miss the last 10 minutes of the games to unlock the coach. That said, he took a fold-up chair sat behind the goal at each game and seemed to enjoy the action!
We also had a special guest too. We’ve agreed to run a hop for the Western League in October, so it was a treat for us to have the league’s General Secretary Mark Edmonds aboard, to see us in action, and hopefully see what a well-organised hop looks like. As much as I like Mark’s company, I did feel the additional pressure!
We trundled from Northants into Rutland, allegedly Britain’s most fertile county with the average woman having 2.81 children, and passed underneath the 1,275 yards Harringworth Viaduct. We soon reached Ketton FC’s Pit Lane ground, and as ever it was good to be spotted by an attendant and directed to a parking spot.
Once you dip down below Step 6, the beauty is that you never quite know what you will find. Here it was a multi-sport facility with cricket dominating, but with the added bonus of it being straightforward to corral all the visitors through the cricket pavilion where all the food and drink was being sold.
The ground is almost entirely enclosed, and the gap that wasn’t was a handy place to take the gate money and check tickets. As organiser it was one of those delightful mornings where I could distribute programme packs, count the crowd, and watch a club make the most of all their and our planning and preparation.
In fact the only worry the club had was that this was the first ever game in the PDFL’s top flight, and they were taking on one of the favourites for the title, Netherton. Of course we’d visited the Peterborough-based side, and enjoyed misspelled badges, kebabs whilst sober, and a passing game on their pitch. For my the joy of Pit Lane is that it was completely different.
On one hand you could easily write the place off as a roped off pitch, with a set of newly built dugouts. But I loved the fact the pitch seemed to have been in part cut out of a hill, and the cement works provided an interesting backdrop. It was the precisely the kind little gem I love to discover, and I hope everyone else thought the same way I did.
The surprise was the result. I have no doubt that if you’d had offered Ketton the point they’d have taken it. It did take a shoddily conceded penalty for that to happen, but when your morning has been this good it was hard to begrudge the club a little good fortune. I grinned and followed Paul back to the coach.