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Sunday 6th October 2019 ko 15.00

Western League Premier Division

WELLINGTON AFC 0

Wadham sent off 73 (violent conduct)

EXMOUTH TOWN 2 (Harris 32 Denny 42)

Att 312

Entry £5

Programme £1

If you’d have told me as early as last year’s hop that we’d end the Western Hop’s run at Wellington I’d have raised an eyebrow. Not much more than than that, I’d enjoyed the club’s company greatly when I visited 3 years ago, but they had turned down the chance to host a hop game. My understanding was that they feared being overwhelmed, and I could understand why, the Wellington Playing Field does come with its challenges.

This is the Wellington of Arthur Wellesley- Duke of Wellington fame and the War Memorial in those playing fields is Grade II listed and the Wellington Monument is clearly visible on the horizon. Moreover Wellington AFC share the playing fields with the cricket club so half the floodlights have to be taken down at the end of the season, and one length of the pitch is out-of-bounds to spectators. So I could empathise with Wellington’s worries and it is fair to say that the little ground was close to swamped.

But they relented, and every credit to them, they coped, and sat in a corner at half time in hospitality it was lovely to listen to Jules French and both clubs’ committees clearly enjoying the whole groundhop experience. In the end despite those worries I’m pleased they decided to give it go, thanks to them for that, and I trust they did well out of it.

A word too about Exmouth Town. A thankyou to all involved at Southern Road for agreeing to this fixture. Normally the incentive for an away club to play at an odd time is their own chance to host but Exmouth featured a few years ago on one of Phil Hiscox’s South-West Peninsula League Hops. With the hobby being based on “Visiting everywhere once” we couldn’t include them on a Western Hop either now or in the future. Nevertheless their gesture was much appreciated and it was good to see the redoubtable Mr Hiscox watching one of his former clubs.

They did head for home with all 3 points though. Wellington are struggling and whilst the dismissal of Wadham for lashing out after a heavy challenge didn’t help them, they were the weaker team throughout and so Exmouth’s win was thoroughly deserved. I note that Wellington changed managers in the days after this match, and I hope the results will improve.

So that was it, the final (for now anyway) Western Hop, the one that we originally thought would never happen. We’ve now visited every ground in the Western League that has never staged a hop game. For those interested, you now know about Exmouth and both Wincanton and Sherborne hosted on Dorset Hops.

But this was the late Mark Edmonds’ idea and it was lovely that Sarah his widow was at several of this year’s hop’s matches including this one. I hope we did Mark’s creation justice, and don’t think I’ll be ever able to attend a Western League game without thinking of him.

When Mark died it was the league, and Keynsham’s Jules French who took on the league’s hop duties. That was no easy task but Jules is the exactly the kind of chap you want to liase with when you’re setting up each event. I’m so pleased his beloved Keynsham Town finally got promoted to the Premier Division at the end of last season and I’ll always look out for their results!

So where next? Well that is very much up for grabs. We’ve agreed to run a hop for the Anglian Combination and I think this slot would suit them nicely but their reluctance to include any Sunday games is a difficulty.

I spoke to the Southern Combination a few months ago, as I’d quite like to maintain the hop in a Step 5/6 league at this time- having all clubs floodlit does make scheduling a set of staggered fixtures so much easier at this time of year. I asked to attend a committee meeting to present the whole concept to them but the trail seems to have gone a little cold at this time.  I know the Western League would like us to take in the Somerset County League as we could include new Western League clubs on an as-and-when basis. Having visited quite a few clubs in that league that idea is certainly worth pursuing. Perhaps the view to take is that if you are involved at a club and fancy GroundhopUK organising a hop in your league, give us a shout!