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Saturday 12th October 2019 ko 14.00

Bedfordshire County League Division 3

STOPSLEY UNITED 2 (Prosper 9 Downey 90)

Frater sent off 61 (violent conduct)

HARLINGTON JUNIORS 3 (Frantazelli 7 Lambert 40 77)

Thompson sent off 61 (violent conduct)

Att 128

We left village life in Haynes and headed south into Luton’s suburbs. Stopsley is a classic example of a former village that had been slowly absorbed by the larger town nearby. But I had a comment by Beds Hop organiser Craig Dabbs turning over in my mind.

I spent the mid-naughties working for a global bank and was based in Milton Keynes. It was an unhappy 2 years for me, I was the wrong man in the wrong organisation at the wrong time. As miserable as it was, I did learn from the experience, but a memory was being asked to see a client right at the edge of my patch. I was told the customer was in Stopsley and I had no idea where that was! Perhaps if I’d watched Stopsley United early I’d have known. So I put the customer’s postcode in my satnav and almost immediately I got a phone call staying they’d phoned the branch to cancel- it happened a lot during the banking crisis.

What I was left with was an idea of what Stopsley might look like, and since I’d not visited there in the meantime I’d asked Craig what Stopsley United’s ground was like? “They’re at Luton Sixth Form College” he said. That got me thinking.

What would you expect given that knowledge? A 3G cage, like at Capital City Academy, in North London or perhaps the more open style like at Jubilee High School in Addlestone? I suppose I expected the former, an all-weather surface is handy for a school, so what we got was surprising.

The first surprise was climbing steps from the main school buildings to get the grass pitch and the second was the steps of terracing along one side giving the place a feeling of at least being partly enclosed. In fact the only issue, save for the lingering drizzle was that poor Stopsley had got their timings awry.

I reckon that if everyone had turned up half an hour later and the game had kicked off half an hour later still, we;d have all commented on just how well Stopsley had done. As it was they were still setting on as the crowd arrived and when that happens all margin for error is lost. Craig worked manfully to plug the gaps and in the end Stopsley managed to fulfil their plans well, albeit at the loss of much of the time before kick-off which is the golden hour for clubs to make the most of a hop game.

On the pitch the game was a real firecracker, but the worry was referee Kelvin Thompson who was forced to retire at half-time after suffering with dizzy spells, a club official took over the whistle, and it was he that had to send a player off from each side!  I’m sure sides will feel they should have won it, for me Hartlington were marginally the better side and deserved their win.

We trudged back to the car park, and passed the little band of Stopsley volunteers still selling toasties and drinks under the canopy of the bike sheds. They were everything you like to see, friendly, imaginative and hard working. If only they have been in situ a little earlier.