Friday 29th July 2016 ko 19.45
United Counties League Division One
LONG BUCKBY 4 (Salumu 40 Kostiuk 53 67 Hinton 72)
WHITTLESEY ATHLETIC 1 (Butterworth 78)
The third United Counties/ Peterborough & District Leagues hop felt different from its predecessors. The first was very much a trial run, the second based on a theme, the county of Rutland, but this felt like the continuation of a well-established event. That said, the issues running a dual league hop at the start of the season produces issues, and those issues haven’t changed.
Every hop has its fanbase, and the biggest surprise for Chris Berezai and I at GroundhopUK has been just how popular the PDFL games have been. We thought 2 years ago we’d have the most difficulty in convincing people to pay to watch the lower status league, but by and large its been the PDFL that’s seen the biggest crowds.
That would leave the Friday night club rather isolated in terms of attracting hoppers if looked purely in those terms, but with there being few sets of floodlights in the PDFL this fixture was always likely to be a UCL tie.
Fortunately there is a sizable cohort of patrons whose interest is mainly in the UCL and let’s face it, Friday night football is popular anyway. There was also the fact that while Long Buckby’s Station Road home is close to Watford Gap Services on the M1, it isn’t particularly easy to get to.
So a well-worn routine was put in place with coach pickups in Peterborough and a driver well-informed enough to avoid a shut A14. We arrived with plenty of time so spare, and that was no bad thing, as The Bucks’ preparations were spot on. I was pleased for many reasons not least because Long Buckby were the only side willing to play on the Saturday morning of the first hop away at Yaxley.
As organiser of these events you like to do the vast majority of your work in the weeks before the event so all you have to do is distribute programme packs and count the crowd. That goes double for the first game of any hop when any gremlins are most likely to rear their ugly heads.
Thankfully that didn’t happen and a bumper crowd enjoyed seeing Long Buckby take on Whittlesey in the latter club’s first ever game in the UCL. Hoppers will remember them as Coates Athletic who on their hop game in 2014 managed to tear up every rule on how many people to expect at a Step 7 hop game.
This game, like that game was rather harsh on them. Yes. Long Buckby were just that little bit sharper, and deserved a narrow win, but 4-1 was rough on the visitors. They’ll play worse games this season and win.
But more than anything else this was a highly convivial evening. Two good clubs, a good league, and the officials were out in force. Hopefully Long Buckby will have made good money out of their evening as the hubbub of hoppers on the coach chatting told me far more about the evening than I could possibly describe here. Once again we were off and running.