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Friday 30th March 2018 ko 15.00

South West Peninsula League Division One East


ILFRACOMBE TOWN 1 (Montague 55)

Att 227 at Exwick Villa FC

Hop Ticket £25 (no programmes included)

Entry £3

Programme £1

On any organised hop there’s always a “Highlight” game, it’s the game that as organiser you know that your patrons will look at the hop’s fixtures, and think “That’s the one I really want.” It doesn’t have to be the best appointed ground, just the one that grabs people’s attention, and for this hop it was Honiton’s Mountbatten Park, if for no other reason than it’s Honiton’s first season in the Peninsula League and so the fewest number of hoppers would have visited before.

It was a good move therefore for organiser Phil Hiscox to put their game in the 3pm slot, knowing that few people if anyone would head elsewhere. The trouble was that the rains changed everything. It took superhuman efforts to get the games at Newton Abbot Spurs, and Sidmouth on and although the game at Honiton had been switched the day before, the torrential rain made it clear that pitch forking gang or none, there was no way this game could have been played in its original location. The club’s nickname of the Hippos seemed all too appropriate!

Phil’s move was to move the game to Exwick Villa , or to use their former guise Exeter Civil Service. The club are now in the Devon & Exeter League having been extremely unfortunate to have been relegated last season. If Totnes and Dartington had resigned their SWPL membership just one week earlier, before the league AGM, then Exwick would still be in league membership.

The arrangement was that Honiton would take the gate while Exwick would provide a barbecue, no easy task in the rain! On one hand, the loss of Mountbatten Park meant the hop lost it’s big draw, the rain meant alternative fixtures were lost to waterlogged pitches at an incredible rate, even if more hoppers had ticked off Exwick Villa. I’m sure too that some opted to find somewhere dry to wet their throats.

Some came to see whether they could count the ground as a new tick- the changes are substantial since my visit 4 years ago. Sadly the little caravan/referee’s changing room has gone, although the club did manage to recoup most of the cost of its purchase. Another loss is that wonderful stand, and with the rain coming down in torrents, the cover would have been handy!

In the end, the only cover if you didn’t have a brolly was the overhang of the clubhouse. That building was interesting, since during the week it’s part of Exeter College, that classroom was the first time I’d sat in one of those for many a long year! I’ll leave you to explain why I felt drawn to the seats on the back row.

I suspect it was the weather more than anything else, but it wasn’t any easy game to watch. There was a goal, Brodie Montague winning the tie for Ilfracombe, but in truth I like many others were paying as much attention to Phil as to the game. It was common knowledge that the final game of the day at Axminster was in serious doubt, and the news from those already there was that as fast as the team working on the pitch were removing water, the rain was simply adding more.

Phil announced that a decision would be made at 4pm, and his announcement that the final game of the day was on was met with a mixture of surprise and relief. The time came to leave Exwick and looking back, I do think in our haste to dash back to our cars and coaches we neglected to give credit to 2 parties.

The first is to Exwick for doing a superb job in hosting in difficult conditions and with the minimum of notice, and to Phil Hiscox for managing to get the game on at all. And it does mean that if and when Phil does another hop, Honiton and Mountbatten Park are still on the to-do list!