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Saturday 29th July 2017 ko 19.45

United Counties League Division One

BOURNE TOWN 1 (Russell 90p)

RAUNDS TOWN 2 (Porter 36 Townsend 81)

Att 459

Entry £5

Programme £2 (poor for what it was)

I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating how much Chris Berezai and I love it when there’s someone there to meet the hop coach, it takes any uncertainty out what adds up to GroundhopUK handing over a coachload of hoppers to another club for another couple of hours, even if a fair few immediately disappear to tick off a pub or pubs! Here Bourne did the greeting in spades with an official there to welcome each and everyone to Abbey Lawns before whisking Chris, coach driver Dwayne and I off to hospitality. But this wasn’t an evening about hospitality, this was an evening about redemption.

It was close to inevitable that we’d gain back all those hoppers who eschewed the two games at Spalding Town and Moulton Harrox in favour of one in either the UCL or Eastern Counties League. The flip side was that we lost most of the “Big numbers” hoppers we’d attracted, but Bourne had managed to turn their hop game into a community event and that more than compensated for it.

That said, we did see a few of our naysayers turn up. Now on one level I don’t understand their attitude, they slate us on every occasion they can but nevertheless turn up to just about everything we organise! On another level everyone’s welcome at our events and their presence boosts everyone’s coffers!

Bourne’s efforts had got the town out in force. They’d printed and distributed 3000 leaflets and turned the whole evening into the sort of community day the UCL and PDFL has got very good at. It seemed to start 3 years ago with a bouncy castle at Peterborough Northern Star, and reached a zenith at Sawtry where the size of crowd amazed absolutely everyone. Here we also had Stamford to thank; they’d hosted a friendly against Peterborough United that afternoon and a fair number of Posh fans had headed for here afterwards and made a beeline for the burgers, which may have been fortunate, the hoppers were on their 3rd barbie of the day. It was both amusing and endeering to hear the comments.

“What a lovely little set-up”

“Do they get this many normally?”

and my favourite,

“We could come here when we’re away”

But as lovely and well-appointed Abbey Lawns is, and however much we all enjoyed ourselves, this event seemed to Bourne’s way of saying “We’re back.” They’d been forcibly demoted from the Premier division in 2010 as at that point the ground wasn’t fully enclosed. The issue was the public footpath that runs to the entrance of the ground. It ran behind the goal then off around roughly half of the far side of the pitch.

Now often its the issues that look relatively simply to fix that cause the most difficulty and this one proved to the case, presumably due to the planners! But thankfully the path has been diverted and the ground is now fully enclosed and now the club can plan to progress.

And on that basis the evening called for a Bourne win, but clearly Raunds hadn’t read the script! The brollies were much in evidence as the rain had the decency to arrive at a ground with some cover. Judging by this game I expect to see both sides at the right end of the table at the end of the season, but as tired legs trudged back to the coach two points were clear. The first was that Bourne Town had both made a financial windfall by connecting with their local populace, and secondly had given Raunds an incredible steer on how to host when their time comes.

For Chris and I as organisers, we flopped back into the hop hotel at an ungodly hour knowing that the clubs had given us an excellent day’s hopping. We could only hope Sunday could be as good.