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Monday 14th April 2017 ko 14.30

North West Counties League Premier Division

WEST DIDSBURY & CHORLTON 3 (Bayunu 70 Henderson 90 Mendes Gomes 90)

CONGLETON TOWN 1 (Gardner 84)

Att 295

Entry £5

Programme £1.50

The coach picked its way through the affluent leafy suburbia of Chorlton-cum-Hardy as we worked out exactly where to park, the club had earmarked a car park near to a pub, but that was full, and even when empty had a height barrier precluding coach entry. Eventually a club official found us, we disembarked, and Godfrey the driver found alternative parking arrangements. I saw him later in the cafe, so Plan B was clearly a good one!

The club moved to Brookburn Road in 1997 after playing since their birth in 1908 at the Christie Playing Fields in West Didsbury. That move saw the addition of the “Chorlton” suffix, and since then the club has seen almost continuous progress. The Manchester League club were elected into the North West Counties in 2012 and their first game in the NWCL gave the hoppers something of a dilemna!

That day saw two clubs make their bow at Step 6, Cheddar in the Western League and West Didsbury & Chorlton. I opted for the former, purely on grounds of geography, and GroundhopUK ended up visiting both this season! I found myself comparing the clubs a lot during our stay here!

It’s fair to say Brookburn Road he has to adapt to the needs of the club as each new challenge has presented itself. The clubhouse is impressive, the Arena stand to its side less so, and the erection of floodlights here should be seen as a minor miracle given the close proximity of some mighty impressive homes.

I’m sure that we saw some drift, where hoppers desert the hop for another game. In the case of Armthorpe Welfare two days earlier, it was understandable, here it wasn’t. One or two disappeared to Skelmersdale even though the ground doesn’t go until November and there was a game a week later, I know, I went! Others went elsewhere, so I reiterate the point I made in the Armthorpe article.

A groundhop is a compromise between the needs of the hoppers, the club and the league. When a hopper opts to head elsewhere, that compromise is damaged, and you get comments from clubs asking why they’re bothering to put themselves out? They have a point too. No hop organiser can either expect or even hope that everyone will follow the hop slavishly, but even by simply looking at the bigger picture I’d like to think we’d see less drift.

The alternative is to either return to 4 games in a day, or push the games closer together so opting to go elsewhere means a hopper has to give up two games. I know those options aren’t popular, so if you’re a hopper reading this, then ponder your plans.

As organisers trying to make the compromises work for all parties, we have to defend all our host clubs. Except in this instance we didn’t miss the few that opted for elsewhere, because West Didsbury have attracted quite a fanbase of their own- the Hipsters!!!

Some say it’s all due to the BBC moving much of its operations to Salford, with the “Artistic types” buying properties in Chorlton-cum-Hardy, but the left-leaning, craft beer and quinoa consuming and beard sporting fans are in abundance at West Didsbury & Chorlton.

The blueprint is there for all to see, invented by St Pauli, and translated into the British idiom by the likes of Clapton and FC United. Here we saw the one thing the hipsters and the hoppers had in common- beer! Here it was the West fans’ favourite brew Krombacher, which represented a compromise of the hoppers’ part, craft German lager isn’t the real ale that is the hopper’s normal thirst quencher!

The game took time to get going (the Krombacher??) and to borrow a cliche the game needed a goal. The excitement was ramped up once substitute Nia Bayunu scored with his first touch, nodding home a corner. It was to be a spell for the substitute, Congleton responded with their own replacement, Callum Gardner equalising via a half-volley.

The game seemed to be drifting towards a draw, I’d even moved to the corner to point the coach party in the direction of the coach’s new pick-up point. West had clearly worked out that Congleton had a weakness on corners as it was Saul Henderson’s turn to head home.  But the pièce de résistance was the last move of the game. A Congleton free kick was cleared by Ashley into the path of Carlos Mendes Gomes. He turned his man beautifully 20 yards out before launching a curling shot into the top left hand corner.

I grinned, thanked  the club for their efforts and made for the coach, admiring a tram heading our way as I went.