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Saturday 29th January 2022 ko 15:00

Northern Counties East League- Division One

RETFORD FC 3 (Scott 37 45 L White 39)

CLIPSTONE FC 2 (Bennett 51og Finnernan 70)

Att 137

Entry £5

Programme £1

A quirk of my groundhopping past is that somehow I’d visited neither of the two Retford clubs. A lot of the reason for that is that the older club Retford United somehow managed to evade both the Central Midlands League’s and the Northern Counties East’s organised hops. Given the length of time those two hops ran that is an achievement of sorts. But Retford FC’s reason for never having featured on an organised hop is more straightforward- they didn’t exist until 2015!

This is of course the town who famously has “East Retford” as its full name; the town is named after the larger part of Retford that lies to the east of the River Idle. One of my cricket-loving friends was extremely quick to point out that the “Clown Prince” of Nottinghamshire and England, Derek Randall was born here, and I didn’t quite have the heart to retort that humourist and “That’s Life” presenter Doc Cox AKA Ivor Biggun went to school in Retford.

Retford FC played the first two years of their existence playing out of Retford United’s Cannon Park, before moving to “The Rail” in 2017, and won the CMFL’s North Division in 2019. Currently Retford United now play in that Central Midlands League Northern division, which I’d have found hard to believe as little as 5 years ago.

The Rail is supremely well named, the East Coast Main Line runs to one side of the ground, making it one of those grounds you have to visit if you like a train in the background. And yes, I do think Retford should play Cullompton Rangers in a “Railway” friendly, and the visitors should travel by rail!

But the great joy of here isn’t the trains, or even access via the tunnel underneath the road- its the way the ground has been built, or perhaps that should be evolved through scaffolding, terrapins, I even found myself smiling at the pitchside barrier, even that is homemade! While The Rail is clearly still a work in progress, it was, and is refreshing to see no reference to any kit stands whatsoever.

Now I’m sure many hoppers will have enjoyed a couple of hours in Clipstone’s company. Their appearance on the Central Midlands Hop was as quintessentially English as flan, and the late Derek Coupe (then aged well over 75) flirting with the players’ girlfriends.  “Clippo” is one of those places you really do need to go and visit, and these days they have managerial legend Rudi Funk in charge (Rainworth, Scarborough, Long Eaton, AFC Mansfield etc) so expect their precarious league position to be a temporary aberation. Their “Tropical Records” orange and black kit certainly was striking!

Here if the visitors had played in the first half the way they played in the second, I’m sure they would have taken something from this game- I’m sure the redoubtable Mr Funk will use that performance as motivation. 

But the afternoon was Retford’s. The lot of the groundhopper’s visit is to take a metaphorical snap-shot of where a club fits in at that moment of time. Here we saw a club that’s come a long way in a very short space of time, and just like the trains that pass by “The Rail” they’re moving quickly!