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Saturday 31st March 2018 ko 19.00

South West Peninsula League Division One West

PLYMOUTH MARJON 2 (Johnson 59 Parsonage 61) McIlvaney sent off (2nd booking) 54

MILLBROOK 3 (Shepherd 29 Chapman 67 Payne 68)

Att 293

All games hop ticket £25 (programmes not included)

Entry £3

Programme £1.50

Once again the scene changed as the cavalcade left Brixham and picked its way cross-country for the hop’s final destination of the University of St’s Mark and John in Plymouth. It hadn’t been the easiest of hops for organiser Phil Hiscox, mainly due to the weather so I felt his pain when the attendant at the primary school in Brixham where the coaches had parked up during the previous game had decided to go home leaving the gate locked.. Fortunately the lock was of the combination variety, and the attendant easily phoned, but I think just about everyone has had one of those days….

Marjon’s ground is untypical of the idyllic town and village grounds the Peninsula League seems to specialise in. It’s a caged 3G pitch with floodlights and a viewing area, with asthetics sacrificed in favour of functionality. It’s a ground built for participants and was being asked to cater for a crowd roughly 10 times normal. It was never going to be an easy square to circle.

For some a caged 3G pitch was excuse enough to head for home. There is a strong vein of idealism running through the groundhopping hobby, but the ground is more than just the plastic and cage combination. The raised area at one side allowed for another viewing area, and as a one-off an area behind the goal as coned off to provide more space for spectators. I doubt many people, if anyone would put Marjon on their list of grounds you have to visit, but this was a highly satisfying evening, which included the added bonus of helicopters landing at the adjoining hospital!!

The club worked extremely hard at their evening. The programmes ran out so a photocopier was pressed into service to make more, with the SWPL committee showing a commendable willingness to help out. The cafe did a roaring trade, and while the queues were long they did move. I’ve seen enough municipal cafes take precisely no account of a larger than normal crowd, I’m minded to think about Grimsby Borough on the Northern Counties East Hop whose council cafe decided that the way to deal with a big attendance was to do nothing different from normal but employ two bouncers!! Not everyone adapts as well as the Oriam did on the recent Scottish Hop!

But for all the non-ideal factors I enjoyed Marjon’s company. The word “Decent” gets horribly misused these days, but the word does sum up nicely what I found to be an honest, friendly and outward-looking club. Of course once I turn up to visit my presence inevitably means that lovely friendly club loses..

And so it came to pass. The game was slow-starting but once it got going, and particularly in the second half it was action you couldn’t take your eyes off. Clearly the pivotal moment was the dismissal of Marjon’s Ben McIlvaney in the 54th minute. Initially it galvanised his teammates, who managed to overcome a goal’s deficit and take the lead. But in the end Millbrook made the extra man count, scoring two quick goals to win the tie.

It was a fine end to a troubled hop, a hop I suspect Phil Hiscox won’t remember with any great fondness. As organiser you plan and hope to move through the event with serene ease, but there were far too many gremlins for that to have been the case here. But from Phil’s perspective most of those gremlins were due to the weather, and despite some hoppers’ inclinations to moan at anything and everything that’s organised for their benefit, we are still unable to influence whether it rains or not. And any organised hop would love to have those attendance figures, rain or shine and all the clubs hosted well! I’m sure too Phil would point out that the hop was scheduled to have 7 games and 7 games took place!

On a personal level it was a pleasure for Robyn and I to see Phil and everyone at the Peninsula League once again. I hope that this won’t be the end of hops organised by Phil in his league, and Chris and I at GroundhopUK will continue to speak and cooperate with the SWPL over potential events in the future. To finish I’ll pass on our thanks to Phil and all at the league for what was a hugely enjoyable hop. Hopefully we’ll see Phil on one of my events next season. It’s time he had a relaxing footballing weekend and watched Chris and I run round like headless chickens for a change!