Friday 26th July 2019 ko 19.00
Peterborough & District League Premier Division
STAMFORD LIONS 1 (Duffy- Weekes 15)
PETERBOROUGH POLONIA 1 (Bielskis 65p)
Vladnicka sent off 84 (2nd booking)
Att 204 at Borderville Sports Centre
To some extent GroundhopUK’s season opening event in the Peterborough & District and the United Counties Leagues has long been the most straightforward of our hops to run. Part of the reason for that has been the joint league approach, the sheer volume of clubs to visit is huge and so the in-house experience built up matches it. A good example was this game, both sides had seen a hop game before. The other reason was John Weekes of the UCL, and his loss hit us all hard.
Every successful hop needs someone from the league to help make things run smoothly, and from the organisers’ perspective to offer help, advice, and at times offer a shoulder to cry on! John was all of that and so much more and I greatly missed his presence at every single game on this hop. Just like the late Mark Edmonds and the Western League, I’ll think of John every time I watch a United Counties League game.
With the timing of this hop, the practice has long been to have a back-up club ready to host if one of the scheduled hosts dropped out. With a close-season and the AGM’s the lead-in time from initial planning to event is huge, so the fall-backs need to be inplace.
This year the worry was Burton Park Wanderers who’d endured a dreadful start to last season, and looked in real danger of being relegated from the UCL down to the Northants Combination. We have no agreement in place with that league but thankfully Wanderers’ form improved and in the end the two relegation spots were filled by Raunds Town and Thrapston Town. Raunds were reprieved, but friendly, welcoming Thrapston Town now play in the lower league.
We thought we’d managed to escape having to rejig the hop but then Peterborough Polonia pulled out due to concerns from their manager worrying about what side he’d be able to put out. He then walked out a few weeks later, after we’d replaced them with Orton, took the players with him with Polonia replacing the lost Poles with Lithuanians! The team are now known as LT United, but since the paperwork wasn’t received by the PDFL in time they’ll be Polonia for one last season!
The hop was due to start at Eynesbury Rovers, but then the FA moved them laterally to the Spartan South Midlands League, so we did need that stand in club- just not in the slot we’d normally pick for a club without lights. 7.00pm on a Friday isn’t ideal for getting everyone from work to the game, and was proved when the A1 decided to play up! The alternative was to completely re-do the running order; that would have involved too much upheaval to we simply swapped Eynesbury for the Lions.
Then there was the question of where the game was too be played. Lions used the back grass pitch at the Borderville Sports Centre last season but had agreed a groundshare at Blackstones for this coming season presumably to fulfil UCL ground gradings should they finish in a promotion spot. With groundhoppers by and large not being interested in attending games at groundsharers (preferring to see the parent club) Stamford Lions readily agreed to delay moving for one game. But that act didn’t half set the pedants off!
It seems that some people fretted as to whether the club were using it as a one-off ground, or were they using it for GroundhopUK’s benefit or was it their regular. One hopper, on Facebook, well after the game commented that he was in France, so didn’t go, but no one had told him whether it was a one-off ground for the benefit of GroundhopUK! How do I answer that? I think I’ll stick to, “Here’s a game on a ground, I think you’ll like it, please come along.”
Of course Borderville, so named because it straddles the Lincolnshire/ Rutland border, is also home to the Zeeco (or whatever sponsor’s name you like) Stadium home to Stamford AFC. Here the players actually used the same changing room block as the Daniels, exiting the same tunnel before turning right towards the grass pitch. And once you cleared the Stamford AFC bit Stamford Lions did a wonderful job of hosting the opening game of the English domestic season.
It’s easy to forget they were once Ryhall United and played their first game as Stamford Lions on the famous “Skydiver” game at Kings Cliffe United. That was an afternoon no one who was there will ever forget. Well, until kick off anyway!! Here we watched a side about to move play a side of Lithuanians playing under a Polish name. And some folk wondered were wondering why we were here? How you you not like a game like that?
The game was the usual good advert for the league even if there was an edge to much of it. Thankfully the PDFL don’t take the view that used to prevail in South Wales that a sending off was somehow shameful to the league. Vladnicka deserved his two bookings for two poor challenges and all that went with it. It was a good evening’s entertainment and that including the young man playing the guitar as we left.