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Saturday 24th April 2021 ko 15:00

Central Midlands League Division One South



Jones penalty saved 73

Savage sent off (Foul & Abusive) 84

Goodband sent off (Foul & Abusive) 84

Att c25 at Bulwell Hall Park, Nottingham 

With Robyn and I meeting GroundhopUK’s Chris Berezai for a lunch and a chin-wag it was close to inevitable that we’d end up at a Central Midlands League game, it does pay to be attending the game with the fixture secretary. The issue the league has for next few weeks is which of their clubs’ grounds counts as a public space? Most of the leagues I’ve watched since Lockdown#3 that simply hasn’t an issue. There was absolutely no question though of Bulwell Hall Park in Nottingham being anything other than public land.

Bulwell Hall Park is all that’s left of Bulwell Hall, well unless you count the stable block. The estate was owned by the Hardy family best known for their ownership of the Hardy-Hanson Brewery- now swallowed up by Greene King. The house was used to interned Italian prisoners-of-war during World War II but afterwards subsidence (caused by mining) saw the building abandoned, and it was demolished in 1953.

Even so the park still looks like the estate of a major manor house. A tip though for those visiting, FA Fulltime shows the entrance as being in Longford Crescent; don’t aim for there, there’s no parking. Aim for Norwich Gardens and you’ll be at the main entrance and the club have thoughtfully signposted parking for those involved with the football. Its by Nottingham Golf Club, and in more normal times the clubhouse serves the football too.

But the club.. and that name, well let’s attempt to understand it! PMG Academy is a company and very much the baby of founder and owner Wesley Burke, and as the name would suggest the aim is football coaching, through learning and enjoyment. As the name of a football club, Pass Move Grin does feels a little awkward but to defend Burke’s choice of name it does accurately describe the club and its aims. I do hope that someone can come forward to sponsor them, as their kit does need replacing!

I did find myself comparing what I saw here with East Hendred on the previous Tuesday. The differences are manifest, the pitch a parched, weed infested dust bowl compared to the North Berkshire League member’s emerald carpet. Then there’s the 200 metre walk from the car park and club house, and its clear that the Central Midlands League of 2021 isn’t quite the same league that got so popular with groundhoppers around twenty years ago via a series of popular groundhop events. That was in no small part to the grounds back then being of a way higher quality than many Step 6 grounds in the south despite the league existing at Steps 7 and 8.

That shouldn’t be seen as anything like criticism, more a comment on a number of divisions that have been created above the CMFL since then with the effect of pulling the league’s stronger and better appointed clubs upwards. The result is that there’s now a cohort of hoppers like me still trying to keep up to date with the league despite grounds like this being nowhere near like what we were visiting back in the day.

Then there was the issue of the referee, or rather the lack of one! Once it became clear that the official wasn’t going to turn up, and I do wonder whether he’d arrived at Longford Crescent and given up, the league’s rule for such eventualities kicked in. It’s as simple as to say if all else fails that the two clubs HAVE to agree on a suitable person to officiate. Here, and having a league official present was handy, the decision was made quickly, and a PMG official was found a whistle, and in a first for me recorded the bookings on his mobile phone! I thought he did a fine job despite being in the centre of high controversy late on.

A look at the league table, and anyone would have expected a fairly straightforward away win. Dynamo came into this game boasting a 100% record, but found it impossible to break down a PMG side that did exactly what their name tells them to; at times they passed and moved beautifully. The visitors had one massive chance to win the game, the stand-in official (correctly) awarding a penalty for handball. Macaulley Jones’  spot kick wasn’t missed, it was quite brilliantly saved by Blaine McGrory in the home goal and a few minutes later the tables were turned.

As far as I’m concerned the penalty awarded to PMG was as much hand ball as was the Dynamo one, but the visitors certainly didn’t see it that way. The winning goal was slotted away, and two Melbourne players were sent off for verbals aimed at the stand-in referee afterwards.  That language felt unnecessary, the referee to my mind made two honest decisions to award two penalties for two equally culpable instances of handball. The only difference was that one of penalties was missed. 

But that won’t stop Melbourne Dynamo’s promotion charge, and in the end few will remember the stand-in referee either. In the end the groundhoppers there will treat this as little more than a tick, but I’ll keep an eye out for Pass Move Grin. In the end they managed to be more than just an unusual name.