Saturday 17th October 2015 ko 13.45
Western League Division One
OLDLAND ABBOTONIANS 3 (Morgan 50 Stone 88 90p)
ASHTON & BACKWELL UNITED 4 (Biggins 11 31 44p Skidmore 73) Allen sent off FT (2nd booking)
I took my place back on the coach just outside Bitton’s ground. Sat behind the driver I could see his sat-nav, so I leaned forward so see how far we’d have to travel to our next game. Just a mile the display said, and as I settled back I felt a slight pang of regret of just how much time and effort I’d spent watching the two clubs individually. On a more positive note what I did have was no worries on Oldland secretary Martin McConachie’s ability to host the game.
As organiser you love a club that asks lots of questions. I remember Chris Berezai and I attending the league’s AGM and getting the whole project approved. As soon as the meeting was over Martin was the first one over to us to firstly ask whether Oldland could host, then asked for guidance. Enthusiasm like that is infectious so it was an easy decision to give his club a match, and over the months between the AGM and the game I received a steady stream of questions. And let’s make one point crystal clear, I wish more club officials were like Martin, it would make Chris and I’s lives so much easier!
To give you an idea of just how much thought Martin had put in, we’d wondered how we were going to get the hop coach down the narrow lane to the ground. We reached the turn to it, and there was a club official to direct us further along the main road to Martin at a bus stop. We all alighted, and walked down an alley to the back entrance of the ground, while he accompanied the bus to park up elsewhere. Who said all you have to do is stagger a few kick-offs?
Once there I simply sat back and watched Martin and his team just… cope, and cope admirably. For me the highlight was the chicken curry which I think is the most delicious food I have ever tasted on a groundhop, and yes I have tested to destruction-my own!
I’m afraid I did allow myself a little fun. League General Secretary Mark Edmonds had let me know that the Oldland’s attendance record was 170, a figure Martin was extremely keen to beat. So Chris and I did the count and I sidled up to Martin in the stand slapped him on the back and said,
“Well done mate, absolutely magnificent crowd, you’ve got 168 here!”
I’d better not print his reaction, but I decided to give him the correct number fairly quickly!
The game saw Backwell rather overturn the form book due in the main to Conor Biggins first-half hat trick. Oldland fought back well in the second half but their goals came too late to make the visitors too nervous.
But over the years I’ve learned to read people’s signals. In Martin you could see the disappointment for losing the match, but the pride in being an excellent host. I’d like to think when he and his club add up the pennies, they’ll have made a tidy sum, they deserve it.