Saturday 30th July 2022
11.00 United Counties League Division One
BIRSTALL UNITED 4 (Crossley 9 29 64 84)
Lefley sent off (DOGSO) 13
SAFFRON DYNAMO 0
Gladman penalty saved 69
13.45 United Counties League Division One
BARROW TOWN 1 (Raceala 81)
Larter sent off (violent conduct) 45
RADFORD 5 (Halls 27 45p Jebbison 68 Seaton 79 84)
16:45 United Counties League Division One
HOLWELL SPORTS 3 (Pope 55 Allcock 69 Bestwick 86)
HUCKNALL TOWN 3 (Westcarr 9 Knight 22 Bell 68)
19.30 United Counties League Premier Division North
MELTON TOWN 2 (Anderson 45 Lee 53)
I do think as a groundhopper and a writer the aim should be to find something for yourself in every game you see. It could be simply following the team you love, it could be ticking of a new ground but what is there when it’s something new- four revisits in a day? For me it was seeing how the clubs had changed in the time since I first visited. Some places had changed more than others!
It had been 8 years since I’d visited Birstall United, their Meadow Lane home being adjacent to the former home of Newfoundpool FC. Back then I watched a Leicestershire Senior League fixture at a ground clearly at the start being improved and while I expected change, I didn’t expect anything as manifest as this! In practical terms it was close as being a completely new ground as you could get!
This was as good a hosting as you could expect, I and the rest of the GroundhopUK team just let them get on with it. We also saw the performance of the hop from Josh Crossley. Three out of his four goals came when his team were down to 10 men which is some going.
Of all of the 4 Saturday revisits it had been over a decade since I’d visited Barrow-on-Soar, November 2010 to be exact and here’s a coincidence they were playing Radford too, although that time they won 3-1! Here once I’d sorted our access to the team line-ups ( a running issue in this year’s hop) I like many others enjoyed the club’s superlative catering- the curry was as good as I’ve had anywhere. Like at Sevenoaks Town’s Greatness Park the best vantage point isn’t in the ground itself. Here it’s from the footbridge and I made sure I watched the second half from there.
But the game will be remembered for a quirk I’ve certainly not seen before, and that was Barrow managing to field 3 goal keepers- in the first half! Austin Wood got injured early on and could only struggle on to the 27th minute. He was replaced by Chris Larter, but he lashed out after conceding a penalty and was dismissed leaving defender Olly Preston to face the penalty. It was little surprise that the final score was as one-sided as it was.
Holwell Sports were another club it had been over a decade since I’d visited, this time in March 2010 in an East Midlands Counties League tie vs the now defunct Greenwood Meadows. Truthfully I didn’t remember much about Welby Road, but one feature I did was the convex sign at the entrance. It was the first thing I looked out for on arrival, and I hope it will be protected for the future.
We arrived to a chaotic scene, the parking space for the coach was unsuitable and the streets outside choked with traffic. It seemed to me that everyone involved at Sports worked far beyond what could reasonably be asked of them but they lacked the numbers. Nevertheless all that need to be done was, it just look a little more time and I enjoyed the ability of the tea bar to shift food and drink at a remarkable rate.
The game was one that I’m sure Holwell Sports will take to the grave. We seem to have featured Hucknall Town in all kinds of hop games without ever having them host, and here they raced into a 2 goal lead with former Walsall and Notts County striker Craig Westcarr scoring the first and maintaining a high profile. It looked a question of speculating how many Hucknall might score but somehow the hosts managed to gain a foothold into a game they’d looked out of. In the end the points being shared looked a little harsh on our hosts.
I hope no one at Melton Town minds me saying this, but the trip to the back of Melton Mowbray’s Sixth Form College, was the tie I anticipated the least mainly because it had been less than two years since my previous visit. I also worried about the narrow lane leading down to the paybooth. The ground’s footprint isn’t large and knowing that the Saturday evening fixture always attracts a large crowd I wondered how they’d cope?
The answer can be summed up in one word- admirably to the point where I made the mistake of assuming that like some other clubs on the hop they’d forget to post the team line-ups and ended up walking past the whiteboard with the relevant information already in situ!
The ground has changed massively in those two years, the pitch is now 3G but you couldn’t help but notice the wooden shell of their new clubhouse and changing room block. For this one evening having it as a shell worked beautifully, it acted as both a viewing area and as a market place for everything they wanted to do.
For the most part that added up to “A taste of Melton” with local beers, the famous pork pies and since it’s the one place where technically it can be made- Stilton Cheese. I love a host club to give their visitors a taste of where they’re visiting and Melton did it as well as any club I remember. In fact a week or two later Robyn asked me to buy some pork pie during the weekly shop, and yes, I made a point of making it Melton Mowbray! In the Melton’s hosting made them one of the memorable hosts- its lovely to be wrong sometimes.
I hope no one will mind me saying the game seemed slightly secondary to all that had surrounded it. Was it really 9 years since Selston featured on a Notts Senior Hop? Their game was a tie I’ll aways associate with referee Andy Rolph enjoying a pre-match cigar! They’ve come a long way since those days even if on this occasion they were beaten by the better side. But let’s face it, the evening already belonged to Melton Town, the game just added to that sense. Now where is that lump of Stilton?