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Friday 5th February 2016 ko 19.45

Eastern Counties League Division One

HALSTEAD TOWN 2 (Cook 26 Pavett 55)

WIVENHOE TOWN 3 (Keating 3 Turner 18 Hampson 62)

Att 202

Entry £6

Programme SOLD OUT

Whilst the Eastern Counties League’s attempts at “Groundhopper Days” have not fared well, they’ve had considerable success with Friday evening football. This was the classic example of where it works best, two clubs near Colchester playing a local derby knowing there was another derby the next day, Colchester United travelling to Southend United. I got the distinct impression that plenty at Rosemary Lane had every intention of attending both games.

The ground is the kind of place traditionalists love, a stand with a pitched roof similar to that at Harwich & Parkeston, grass banking and the kind of floodlights that seem to beckon the patrons in. And on this evening the place positively buzzed.

The only downside to it was that the club struggled to cope with the huge crowd. I can easily live without a programme, and I can eat elsewhere since the queue for the tea hut was long, but the groundhop organiser in me hates seeing a friendly club losing out on revenue. You can see the club’s dilemna easily, put on extra staff and print more programmes but what if in these straightened times that extra outlay is for nothing? What if the game is postponed, or fewer people turn up? For games like these, it’s almost impossible to plan.

But let’s not get too hung up about that, the point of the exercise for Halstead was to try and get as many as possible of those extra patrons to turn up for future games. A groundhopper by his very nature is a transient patron. And by serving up a classic you have to believe the evening has helped Halstead’s immediate future. Yes they lost but then Wivenhoe haven’t lost a league game all season, and look destined to a return to the Premier Division, and possibly even a return to the Isthmian League in time, such is their momentum.

There was one odd moment though, we saw a first for me- a red card rescinded on the pitch. Adam Hampson scored Wivenhoe’s winner, and teammate Jake Plane jumped into the crowd of his team’s fans to celebrate. When the dust had settled referee Lucas Bomela booked him for his over exuberance. Bomela had booked Halstead’s Sam Cripps in the first half, Cripps was wearing the “7” shirt, and when Plane was booked also wearing the “7” short, Bomela clearly hadn’t noted which number seven so issued a red card to an obviously horrified Plane! A quick chat with his assistant saw the error corrected, but Bomela certainly won’t look at his evening’s work with any pride.

That will be in contrast to the two clubs. It was on an evening where just about everyone got what they wanted, the patrons got a wonderful ground and game, the visitors got the win, and Halstead made money and raised their profile. Quite honestly, I completely forgot I was watching football at the 10th tier of English football.

Update 9th February 2016

Many thanks to Halstead Town for sending me a copy of the programme. Much appreciated.