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Saturday 17th October 2020 ko 15.00

Central Midlands League Division One Central

WIRKSWORTH IVANHOE 3 (Mellor 3 34 36)

Leask missed penalty 53

WOODHOUSE COLTS 3 (Hajman 54 Glenn 74 Clarke 90)

Att 62

Entry FREE

Programme £2

I had something of a dilemma.  I knew wherever I was going I was going alone. Robyn had been in contact with someone who had subsequently tested positive for coronavirus, so she was in the middle of two weeks self-isolation. She encouraged me to find a game, but what game to find? I wanted a game with something in it for me, but something that Robyn cooped up back in Oxford would see me at, and wouldn’t really felt left out. I racked my brains as to where, to go, to the extent that I even wondered whether there was a database of clubs who play in 3G cages! I then made the decision that the first club that follows me on social media to catch my eye would get a visit, and that turned out to be Wirksworth Ivanhoe!

They gained my (and everyone else’s) attention by announcing they were printing their first ever programme, and my only real surprise is that there weren’t more groundhoppers there in Derbyshire, around 15 I’d say. I’d also point out that the programme didn’t sell out so perhaps the obsession of some with a matchday magazine is a purely a groundhopping phenomenon!

The area is on the southern edge of the White Peak, part of the Derbyshire Peak district. It feels agrarian to the point I was surprised to discover that Wirksworth was a centre for lead mining, with its own judicial system to regulate the industry. So much so that the those legalities are still technically in place so someone mining for lead and not paying tax could in theory have his hand nailed to his Stowce or winch as punishment!

However fiesty the game got, and the Central Midlands League does feature some fairly committed football, no hammers or nails did feature, thankfully!

In truth you couldn’t see a game here as anything other than beautiful- just look at that backdrop. Its timeless too, next year will be the football club’s 100th year and as the drizzle cleared I could easily imagine players past trotting down to the pitch for a game in years’ gone by.

One mystery though will remain just that, and that is why the club are named Ivanhoe? The assumption is that its after the character by Walter Scott, and the idea of chivalry and heroism does fit in with amateur football in the 1920’s but noone seems to know for certain!

The truth of my trip here is that I made one error, and that was thinking that my absent wife wouldn’t take one look at it, and immediately want to be here. And to make things worse for me when I got back to Oxford the two teams served up a bone fide classic, although I doubt Wirksworth will want to be reminded of it!

The game saw two top-three sides square off, and Tom Mellor’s rapid fire hat trick looked to have won the game for Ivanhoe. But slowly the tides changed, or maybe the far goal attracted goals (all six were scored there after all!) but once Matt Leask saw his penalty saved for 4-0 the visitors piled on the pressure.

In the end it was a mixture of visiting belief, and it has to be said poor home defending but Ryan Clarke’s equalising goal in the 9th minute of stoppage time was as predictable as it was well worked. Just occasionally you get a game where probably being a neutral is the for the best. This was a good example of it; I suspect both sides will feel they could have won this, both had periods where they dominated. Instead I just headed back south with a smile on my face, that gradually turned into a furrowed brow. Explaining my afternoon to a wife who’d have loved to have been there wasn’t easy!

Still there is a silver lining to it all. During the first half the talk amongst the hoppers was on future groundhop weekends. A club official overheard us, and commented that they’d tried to organise a groundhopper day during their stint in the Midlands Regional Alliance. I smiled and suggested he speak to the Central Midlands League’s fixture secretary. The hoppers laughed, and I explained the quip. 

The CMFL’s fixture secretary is Chris Berezai, owner of GroundhopUK. That  should take care of Robyn’s trip here! Where is the best place to park a coach?