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Friday 28th July 2017 ko 19.45

United Counties League Division One



Att 221

Entry £6

Programme £1

I’ll never forget the genesis of the United Counties/ Peterborough & District League Hop. It all started with the UCL tasking apprentice Daniel Leggett to organise what they’d seen work well elsewhere. He soon hit an impasse and contacted former Notts Senior League hop organiser Rob Hornby. Rob couldn’t help him, but did contact me. I met Daniel at Peterborough Sports, and soon enough Chris Berezai and I were meeting the clubs. There was a surprise waiting for us though!

We at GroundhopUK fully expected to be running a UCL hop but since the league also does the administration for one of its feeder leagues, the PDFL, they asked whether we could include clubs from their top division too? We were happy to oblige but took the view that why not include willing and able clubs from all of the league? The UCL agreed, so did the PDFL, and the result has been something unique, a hybrid hop.

This, the 4th hop in the series demonstrated the point well. We featured games from both divisions of the UCL and 3 from the PDFL. Or putting it another way we saw games from Step 5 of non-league to a nominal Step 10! That fact does make the hop interesting from an organiser’s point of view.

In simple terms there are 2 types of hops, those at Step 6 or above, and those at levels below that, and they attract completely different types of hopper to the point that I was asked by hoppers at both PDFL and UCL grounds why we were including the other league’s clubs! It made me think of Oakham United who so far the only club to have bridge the hop’s divide, being the opposition to Coates before hosting two years later in their first ever game in the UCL.

Of course from GroundhopUK’s perspective we like to see the two halves dip into the other’s grounds, although I’m bound to say some Eastern Counties League clubs seemed to do well from GroundhopUK on the Saturday. So be it, I may have disagreed with one of that league’s officials in the past, but if my actions help a non-league club, then that’s fine by me.

So we started our 8 game odyssey at Huntingdon Town’s Jubilee Park, a ground that bears more than a slight resemblance to another ground where the UCL/PDFL hop has started, Harborough Town. It is the classic out-of-town solution to provide a community stadium for a non-league club, while the old ground gets redeveloped into, in this case a Tesco! The twist in the tale is that despite the place having only been opened since 2003, it could well be that the club could be soon on the move again. The local council want to build a new crematorium, and are prepared to fund the club’s next move. Hopefully any new ground will be a little closer to the town centre.

The other curio was passing signposts to Godmanchester on the way to the ground. Godmanchester play in the Eastern Counties League, and you’d think both clubs would play in one league or another! That’s FA politics I suppose. It was a thoroughly competent staging, although I was slightly disappointed that the planned gourmet pie night was ditched in favour of a barbecue. Anyone who’s been on an organised hop will be rather bored of the burgers, and my one sadness on this event was their preponderance. I wish more clubs could be as imaginative as little Cilgerran were back in the day. The sad part is that imaginative catering is profitable catering, and while Chris and I can encourage, ultimately the decision has to be made by the clubs themselves.

The opposition was the latest club to make their bow in the UCL after winning promotion from the PDFL. Pinchbeck have moved into a “Joint Tenancy” at Spalding United to fulfil ground grading. Ironically Spalding Town have moved in, creating a situation where Pinchbeck play in Spalding and vice versa. Just to make life interesting, we were due to visit Spalding Town the next day!

Plenty will see the goal-less draw as a marker of a dull game, but the clean scoresheet was down to a brilliance of home keeper Andrew Hewitt. As we strolled back to the coach afterwards I overheard some Pinchbeck fans comment that they were happy with the draw. I suspect that during their maiden UCL season they’ll play a lot worse and win.