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Friday 29th July 2022 ko 19:45

United Counties League Premier Division South

LUTTERWORTH TOWN 3 (Wilson 22 32 Small 27p)

ROTHWELL CORINTHIANS 2 (Rzesteuck 57 Allen 88)

Att 320

Entry £6

Programme £2

For me the year 2022 has been about reconnecting with people that we’d been unable to meet during the pandemic. The catch has been those 2 years have seen manifest changes in all of us, so often what we’ve gone back to has been different to what we’d been used to back in 2020. The UCL Hop proved to be a case in point.

For one FA boundary changes have seen the league’s footprint move north. Most if not all of our host clubs this time round were not at the meetings we held all those years ago when this hop was first proposed. Many in fact were members of the now defunct East Midlands Counties League. The irony that we’d unsuccessfully tried to organise a hop in that league around a decade ago wasn’t lost on me.

That drift north had another unintended consequence, the loss of games in the Peterborough & District League, as the geography of the event didn’t allow for it. I regretted that on two levels, firstly and most importantly that PDFL clubs have added real colour to previous hops, who could forget the 534 crowd at Sawtry for example? I hope that in subsequent years we’ll be able to include them once again. 

The second consequence was far more personal, it meant that for the first time in a long time I was attending a full length hop where every single game would be a revisit. I’ve nothing against re-visits per se, and as Robyn was quick to point out we both see the hops as social events as anything else. Of course, some re-visits are more interesting than others and Dunley Way was a case in point. 

There are of course two football clubs in Lutterworth, Town and Athletic. Not that there’s anything unusual about a town having two clubs, but the fact that they swapped grounds is. Dunley Way used to be used by Lutterworth Athletic and I watched them disembowel Asfordby Amateurs 7-0 in a Leicestershire Senior League game here in July 2012. 

The issue any club playing here was and is floodlighting. Athletic put up lights in 2005 but were forbidden to use them, so decamped to Hall Park in 2011 displacing Town who’d played there. Town played a season at Coventry Way before moving into Dunley Way completing the swap. It must be said that Town were a lot more successful in getting floodlights and being able to use them, and that’s how they managed to move into the United Counties League in 2017. It is worth noting that those lights do come with restrictions, which proved all too relevant later. As, no doubt you can see too the improvements to the ground weren’t restricted to just those lights. It was and is quite a transformation. 

With Craig Dabbs and my wife Robyn having been in Long Eaton with GroundhopUK owner Chris Berezai since the early morning doing all the admin work, I had little need to be at the game much before kick-off. I had a full day at work near Oxford and made my way north expecting a straightforward evening. I parked up near the ground, and the missed calls and text messages made it clear there was a problem.

It was that the coach had broken down by Leicester Forest East Services- the clutch had failed. The issue was that all the prebooked tickets were on it, and so those with those ticket holders were waiting at the turnstile with no database to check against. I got Chris to email over the manifest so we were at least able to get people into the ground, and yes they could wait for their programmes!

I managed to get the game delayed by 15 minutes, which was stretched to 20, but more was impossible, the curfew on the floodlights saw to that. As it was the coach party arrived about 10 minutes after kick-off just as assistant referee Martin Dexter collapsed. Thankfully it was nothing too serious, and a qualified replacement was quickly found and kitted out.

It all meant I’d spent the best part of an hour in the eye of the storm. Thanks should go all at Lutterworth Town, their competence at hosting and their understanding and cooperation with what was thrown at us all made my life far easier than it could have been. Looking at it selfishly I didn’t get time to consider what an achievement they’ve made getting Step 5 football to a site rejected by others. It may have been a case of all hands to the pump but I found something heroic in their efforts. 

I’m sure they’ll point out they won the game too- surviving a second half comeback from Rothwell Corinthians but in truth large chunks of the game rather passed me by- perhaps it was no bad thing it was a revisit after all!