Sunday 8th October 2017 ko 11.00
Western League Premier Division
SHEPTON MALLET 4 (Billing 20 47 89 Pollard 47)
BRISLINGTON 1 (Hunt 85)
About 2 weeks before the Western Hop I’d been at a game and a hopper came up to me and told me how excited he was about the hop, but then commented.
“But why couldn’t you have put the Bishops Lydeard game on before the Shepton Mallet game?”
My response was to ask why would that be of any help? His response was telling,
“Because then I’d go home after the Lydeard game” he said. Never has the compromise that is the organised groundhop been put in clearer focus.
The hopper was of course only looking at the Sunday’s fixtures from the perspective of his own needs. He’d already visited Shepton Mallet, so sought to just do the one game and have an early finish. With Bishops Lydeard being new to the league, they were always likely to be the ground that would be the biggest draw to the groundhoppers, to the extent that a couple of hoppers actually only bought tickets for that game.
At GroundhopUK Chris Berezai and I have to consider needs other than those of the hoppers, and the needs of Shepton Mallet are just as important as anyone else. Knowing that most of the hoppers were staying in the area after the Saturday games, having Mallet up first at least meant at we could ensure Mallet got a good crowd, even if a few like me were visiting the ground for a second time. We’d had a similar decision to make 5 years ago on the Mid-Wales Hop, scheduling Welshpool Town before Dolgellau and Dyffryn Banw on the final day of the event for similar reasons to here.
And the West Shepton Playing Fields are well worth a visit, whether you’ve been before or not. The town takes its name from the River Sheppey” that runs through it (Sheppey-town) , and the Malet family, William Malet was a companion to William the Conqueror, who inherited the town in 1100.
The ground is just wonderful, my favourite in a weekend where we visited some exceptional grounds. There’s enough of the quirks, be it the slope, or the homemade stand, to keep a hopper’s sense of asthetics satisfied whilst still being able to cope with a large crowd.
They were good value for their win too, albeit unusually due to a man with a “5” in his back. James Billing may have played this season at centre half for Shepton Mallet but in the past has played up front for clubs like Bath City and Paulton Rovers in the Southern League. Here he was “Converted back” to being a striker and utterly destroyed a Brislington side that I tend to expect to see as front-runners for the league.
It capped an excellent morning for Shepton; all too often a well-staged game often produces a loss on the pitch. As we picked our way westwards the chatter on my minibus spoke volumes, our decision to maximize Shepton’s opportunity had paid dividends, and best of all it had served also to enhance those of the hop’s final hosts.