Saturday 13th October 2018 ko 17.00
Bedfordshire County League Premier Division
WOOTTON BLUE CROSS 2 (Sarrington 53 A McDonald 65)
MARSTON SHELTON ROVERS 2 (Sholsky 25 J Cerminara 35)
The Bedfordshire Hop had been a resounding success this far with both Bedford Albion and Queens Park Crescents both taking organiser Craig Dabbs’ advice and reaping the rewards from it. Knowing Craig as I do, he knew that Wootton Blue Cross’s plans were rock-solid, but even with that in mind he was nervous about what was going to happen.
The reason was exactly the same as was the case for his hop in 2017, when the finale saw us visit Cranfield United, the issue was the club’s past in a higher league. Here the league in question, Blue Cross left the United Counties League in 2013 and from the organiser’s perspective the issue was that the kind of hopping clientele that would be attracted to the rest of the league is the kind of clientele that would have already ticked off Blue Cross and head for home early.
The sad irony was that we could have visited much earlier, we visited Wootton Village on the 2016 hop and it would have been easy enough to take in a game afterwards under the floodlights. Unfortunately the League took the view that Blue Cross’s existence was sufficiently parlous to make that idea inadvisable.
However waiting a couple of years helped Blue Cross stablise and another advantage was Marston Shelton Rovers moving the short distance from Marston Moretaine to groundshare here at Weston Park. I didn’t spot it on the hop’s visit in 2013 but the ground there is impossible to bring up to Step 7 standards, so the club have opted to groundshare while they work out how best to use a redevelopment grant.
Like plenty at this game, I’d seen Blue Cross during their UCL days and the pleasant surprise was how well-maintained Weston Park is even when compared to then. In fact, the biggest change is the houses that have appeared on the far side, blocking the view of the ground from the A421.
The position now is that in theory either Rovers or Blue Cross could use the ground as the base for a promotion tilt, and at times it was hard not to frame this landlord versus tenant encounter as a beauty contest for just that. These looked like two clubs more than capable of a tilt at either the Spartan South Midland, or United Counties Leagues.
What is ended up being was a darned good evening out, as Blue Cross hosted beautifully- and the attendance held up reasonably well. I did enjoy that Chilli, and it was lovely to see a delegation from Queens Park Crescents returning the favour that Blue Cross had done for them a few hours earlier.
It was the cliche of the game of two halves. Rovers started the stronger and the 2-nil lead they took into the break was entirely deserved. However the second half was a completely different matter as Blue Cross found their form, and in the end I suspect a point was acceptable to both parties.
This was a day out that organiser Craig Dabbs should regard as a personal triumph. I know first-hand that organising these events at this level of the game isn’t easy, so much as what a hopper would regard as a minimum standard simply isn’t in place in any given Saturday.
So all credit to Craig, the league and the 3 host clubs, and I look forward to the next installment in our Bedfordshire odyssey. Long may they continue.