Alphington, Devon, England, Exeter, Exminster, Football, groundhop, groundhopping, Minster Park, Phil Hiscox, South West Peninsula League, St Martins
Saturday 31st March 2018 ko 11.00
South West Peninsula League Division One East
ST MARTINS 4 (Watson 5 90 Davies 62 Richards 81)
Finally, an organised hop in the UK in 2018 saw a day with pleasant weather. It seemed an almost entirely different journey from Paignton to Exeter than it had been during the rain-soaked preceding two days. Robyn and I headed to Exeter’s southernmost suburbs, to the almost subsumed village of Exminster, with the austere-looking form of the former Devon Mental Hospital overlooking proceedings. The building was designed by Charles Fowler who also designed the main Covent Garden market building, and is converted to housing, but the feeling of unease still persists about the place.
There was no sense of unease about the football club as the happy throng arrived. They take their name from the St Martin’s Church in Exminster, a Grade I listed building dedicated to St Martin of Tours. There is a relic in Utrecht reckoned by some to be Martin’s hammer – used to destroy pagans. Maybe that’s how the football team have found success.
If ever there was a ground that exceeded expectations it was Minster Park. I’d only seen photos of a railed off pitch, obviously the photographer had only stood on the near side! For that side is a glorious hotchpotch of different levels, terracing and a small stand. And the view over the Exeter skyline is, well enjoy the photos! The little ground positively buzzed as surprised attendees enthused as to what they’d found.
The attendance seemed larger than the previous two days. Perhaps some had been put off by the rain and others had watched clubs who’d played on Good Friday. The club coped well with the crowd, as people picked a vantage point for the game. There were certainly no lack of options!
St Martins (not to be confused with the similarly named clubs in Shropshire and on Guernsey) graduated from the Devon and Exeter League in 2014 and since then they have established themselves in SWPL Division One East. This year is different, they’re storming the league and rather like our visit to Kelty Hearts earlier in the year, we watched a game featuring top of the table versus bottom.
Except this time Alphington, cast in the guise of fall guys clearly hadn’t read the script. Yes, St Martins won and eventually won well, but Alphington fought with every sinew and did enough to suggest their position at the foot of the table is a false one. Hopefully they’ll escape relegation, as at no point did they look outclassed.
But this was St Martins’ morning in the not-quite sun. Their march to the title seems inexorable even if I suspect their lack of floodlights means promotion to Premier Division football looks to be impossible. In the short term though I suspect the majority of the crowd had the same thought as me. Isn’t just lovely being able to watch a game then walk back to your car or coach still dry?