Saturday 18th September 2021 ko 14:00
Witney & District League Division One
FREELAND 4 (Simlett 17 52 White 24 Burgess 83)
WITNEY ROYALS 1 (Harris 86)
Entry by programme £4
Our coach turned out of Cassington Rangers’ car park, and almost immediately into a traffic jam. I nervously glanced at my watch, and ruefully thought about another decision I’d made. From the moment when the Witney & District League’s officials and I started talking about how we’d like to do this event one topic of conversation was how Saturday was going to look. We initially thought about a 4 game day- so many of the grounds in this area are less than 2 miles from each other so we could have loaded up the day with football. In the end I’m so glad we didn’t, as what happened here proved.
With grounds like these, seating is either not there or is very restricted so a 4 game day is tiring, and with us having difficulties getting both host and visiting clubs, it was an easy decision to make the Saturday a 3-game day. After that decision was made, it was then up to me to decide on timings.
There were two options as I saw it. One option was to run with 3 games, as close together as I could get away with with the aim of making sure those who attended the first game, would stay on the hop for the other two games. The other option was to move the middle game as little as possible then add the other two games before or after it. In the end I did the latter, with half an eye on the former. With Ducklington not wanting to play at Cassington any earlier than 11am it made my decision easier.
I set the next kick off at 14.00 knowing that it would allow some to go to any number of other local games, but it would allow Freeland plenty of time to make money from their hospitality and the same thing for Hanborough later. Would the net impact be positive for Freeland? I must admit I did wince when I watched North Leigh who had a home game “Like” a couple of tweets we put out, I’m sure there was no malice in it, and I don’t know of any hopper who diverted there. Mind you if they did they’ve had been mighty tight for time for the Hanborough game at 5! I do know a couple went to Aston, which was more than a little ironic, I hope no-one told the Parish Council there!
The traffic cleared as we reached Eynsham, then we headed via Church Hanborough and Long Hanborough to Freeland. In the end we reached Wroslyn Road around 45 minutes before kick-off, and from that moment we enjoyed the most wonderful hospitality. I’d greatly enjoyed Ben Symonds’ company at the planning meeting and was honoured to write a short piece for their programme. Just one small thing though Ben, I’m not sure how my ground count became 2,500 its a few less than that believe me!
That hospitality was due in no small part to the superbly appointed clubhouse and (yes) clocktower at Wroslyn Road. It is an amazing place, and I’d seen the building work at its genesis 10 years ago when of all things I watched a reserve game here against Adderbury Park Reserves, also present was Oxford United legend Joey Beauchamp! Back then the teams changed in converted shipping containers- a far cry from now. Here’s my photos from back then, and I’m sure the reserve game will bring the groundhopping pendants in a cold sweat!
Here I saw one of the ideas I’ve rolled out over the years performed as better as anywhere I’ve ever visited. Back in 2015 in the North Berks Hop I watched East Hendred do extremely well from a players “Bake Off” competition, and I’ve encouraged similar ever since. But Lotus Biscoff cheesecake is taking the idea to a whole new level, and no I don’t think I’ve ever seen Robyn moved as fast! Then there was the Little Ox Brewery too, beer produced in the village and that delicious chilli too… If any club in the future wants a blueprint on how to host a hop game then all they have to do is speak to Ben.
It was a shame we did lose a few on the attendance from the Cassington game, some admitted they’d already visited Freeland during their Oxon Senior League days- they won the competition in 2019 so seeing them in the Witney League’s second tier is something of a shock. Here after all that food I waddled over to the pitch to see them be just that little bit too sharp for a hard working Witney Royals side.
It was good to see referee Steve Bryce too. You’ll remember Steve from the opening game of the first Witney Hop at Hook Norton. I’ve always found Steve’s enthusiasm infectious and he had a fine game here too, as did all the referees on this hop. The game finished, I found Ben to thank him, then strolled back to the coach. The advantage of the timings was that we had no end of time travel the two miles to the final game of the day. That was no bad thing.