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Saturday 1st August 2015 ko 19.45

United Counties League Division One

OAKHAM UNITED 5 (Jenkins 40 Nelson 58 McDonald 65 Leckie 88 Lambie 90)

BUCKINGHAM TOWN 2 (Weymoth 2 Delderfield 77) Weymouth sent off (2nd booking) 82

Att 341

Entry £5

Programme £1

Sometimes when you put a hop together a club just leaps out of the page at you. It’s usually a club with personality, the type that doesn’t just wait for the circus to reach their town, they demand it arrives. I remember Berinsfield doing that on the very first North Berkshire Hop, and Oakham did more or less the same thing last year whilst winning in front of a huge crowd at Coates Athletic.

That was down in no small part to the force of nature that is manager Wayne Oldaker, and its personalities like him that have seen a small club in Rutland move from Catmose College (now used by Rutland DR) to Barleythorpe College, improve the place to United Counties League standards, and win last season’s Peterborough & District League. Whilst it was always Chris Berezai and I’s intention for the hop to visit Oakham United, Wayne in the nicest possible way made sure we had little or no say in the matter!

A club’s first ever game at Step 6 is always likely to attract a crowd for many reasons. One is that with a finite number of grounds with floodlights a hopper who’s beginning to get to the end of that resource will tend to visit clubs with lights only when they’re actually being used. On the other end of the hopping scale of experience, the hopper with fewer grounds clocked up will tend to only watch clubs at Step 6 or above. Either way as organiser a club’s first game at Step 6 and under lights is a godsend, and Wayne wondered whether we’d hit 500 spectators.

In retrospect I’m glad we didn’t as I’m not sure where we’d have put them. The ground is in the grounds of what used to be the home of Hugh Lowther, the 5th Earl of Londale. He was by all accounts a spendthrift who ruined the estate, in early 20th century, he did by the way buy the British Boxing Championship belts that still carry his name, but he was forced to sell Barleythorpe Hall in 1926, It was sad to see the hall derelict and boarded up behind the near goal.

I’m not sure whether Oakham play in yellow because it was Lonsdale’s favourite colour, despite being Arsenal chairman during 1936. The ground is, perhaps as you’d expect, a work in progress with just two sides open for spectators, and with an unusual mode of access, through the college bar. The 341 looked a tight fit given the space available but the club coped with the massive attendance, and I did enjoy my curry.

Any football fan with any heart at all will have a soft spot for Buckingham Town and their agreeing to such a long distance fixture on a Saturday speaks volumes for the club. They’re finally turning the corner, and although they’re still exiled, their improvements to the old Bletchley Town ground are quite staggering.

Not that Wayne and his team would have allowed themselves any sympathy, especially after being caught cold, Scott Weymouth heading home in the second minute. It took time, but gradually Oakham found their feet and outpassed their visitors. 5-2 was harsh on Town, the late dismissal of Scott Weymouth precipitating a collapse, but Oakham’s win was as deserved as it was heartily celebrated.

It’s not often I stroll on to the pitch at full-time to congratulate a manager, but there is something about the infectious enthusiasm of Wayne Oldaker and Oakham United that endears. They’ll be an asset to the United Counties League.