Saturday 5th October 2019 ko 16.45
Western League Division One
DEVIZES TOWN 0
ASHTON & BACKWELL UNITED 1 (Jones 49)
We got the chance to relax a little on the trip from Bradford, we may have moved from one Wiltshire club to another but there was enough time to gather our thoughts. The coach took the little right-hand turn into Nursteed Road, and there was a huge queue.
My mind headed back to Hengrove Athletic a couple of years ago. Then as now, I tend to see a queue as a good sign, at least enough people are there to make the place busy! But like at Hengrove the club were trying to filter the entire crowd through one gate, while collecting entry fees and selling programmes all at the same time. It works fine when the gate is small, but when its over 200?
For the record we always suggest putting the programme sales well away from the gate and I’m sure that would have helped here. It meant that by the time we’d parked the coach and got everyone off, there wasn’t much time until kick-off. A couple of hoppers pointed out that the team line-ups hadn’t been posted anywhere, but having visited Nursteed Road relatively recently I knew where to look. I made a bee-line for the clubhouse.
I found the bloke with the line-ups in the function area, and asked “Are you putting those line-ups up anywhere?” Looking back I should have gone for the assumptive close viz, “Where are you putting up those line-ups?” as the answer I got was a flat “No!” Still, I was able to WhatsApp and tweet those line-ups to those who wanted them easily enough.
That first five minutes set the tone, but if you’re from Devizes Town please don’t take this piece as criticism. The advantage of organising a groundhop at this level is that if a club chooses to host their game in exactly the same way as normal, then that’s crossed no red lines. Ultimately anything we suggest is there for the club’s benefit, so it they ignore that advice then it’s their loss.
In the end I ended up respecting massively the young lady manning the tea hut to the right of the stand. She was swamped by the additional demand but stuck to her work admirably. I spotted her as the game was wearing down and thanked her, just as she’d sparked up a restorative cigarette!
But let’s take a step back from it all for a moment. I’ve said it before but any groundhop organiser looks for at least one of three things to happen from great hosting, a great game and a great ground. So scroll back to that queue at the entrance. I knew that if all else failed people would wax lyrical about the ground- that stand is just lovely.
The game saw us see some real friends of the Western Hop. Ashton & Backwell opened up the 2017 hop superbly and it was great to see, no make that hear, their secretary Charlie Cole cheering her side on. She remains the best advert for the club I can think of! I think she realised her efforts were needed as this was a rough tough game, and not particularly easy to watch.
Charlie got her wish, Backwell won it with the only goal of the game. With time a little tight for the fourth game I began to walk back to the coach with 5 minutes left. It was that kind of a game. The coach departed for Warminster with me feeling oddly neutral to what had just happened; we’d ticked the ground, but little or nothing had been added.