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Sunday 31st July 2022

ko 12:00 United Counties League Premier Division North


Nelson missed penalty 66


Smyth penalty saved 78

Att 285

Entry £5

Programme £2

Ko 15:00 United Counties League Division One

ST ANDREWS 2 (Law 50 87)

WEST BRIDGFORD 1 (Stevens 67)

Att 290

Entry £5

Programme £1

After breakfast at the University of Nottingham we headed south to Leicester. I opted to take my car, with my wife Robyn helping Chris Berezai and Craig Dabbs it meant a quicker trip after the final game. I took quieter country roads, rather than the motorway and with crowds yesterday and crowds to come it was a treat to have a little time for reflection.

Hamilton Park hadn’t changed much since my visit 4 years ago; what was difference was the sheer range of food on offer! Biriyani for breakfast is a new one for me, but a welcome change nevertheless! But biriyani was merely the headline of a really well- thought out hosting. Everywhere you looked there was signs of community involvement; I love to see it, because that creates legacy far beyond simply having 250 people at the game. 

I must admit it’s been a long time since I saw Belper United at their former home Alton Manor 2011 tro be exact! Now I went then on the basis that the ground was soon to be houses and when they moved into a groundshare at Belper Town I assumed the bulldozers had moved in. Now I see that hasn’t yet happened and the ground is currently being used by United’s reserves and women’s team. 

The game wasn’t the greatest; the two sides cancelled each other out for long periods. I indulged in my side hobby of watching the hoppers that hate nil-nils squirm, especially when two penalties failed to be converted. Perhaps enough folks’ mental health issues meant it was a good thing when another spot kick was awarded and scored, and I really couldn’t begrudge Nirvana their win; their hospitality deserved no less. 

The hop’s final game saw what amounted to a cavalcade snaking its way through Leicester. I knew St Andrews would have an issue and that was the situation of their Canal Street home. The ground lies in part of the Aylestone Meadow Local Nature Reserve and the access road to it is less than straight and rather narrow. 

So when I got the last parking spot at the ground and watched a succession of cars park on that approach road I phoned the Chris Berezai on the coach and advised them to park in an industrial estate rather than attempt to go any further. 

Its fair to say St Andrews were swamped by the large crowd. They did their best, and thanks to whoever the groundhopper was got the team line-ups publicised, and in the end they got through it. I do wonder whether the Lionesses Euro Final success afterwards being shown in the clubhouse was the most profitable bit of their day!

We got a good game, and for those wondering where we’d seen West Bridgford previously, they hosted one of Rob Hornby’s final Notts Senior League Hops, back in 2014. Come to think of it, that game saw them promoted, and in front of their challengers too!!

Here a quite wonderful free kick was enough to shade the game for St Andrews, and when it was all over the car park cleared with remarkable speed. Perhaps everyone just wanted to listen to the Lionesses date with destiny!

Ask anyone who has ever organised one of these events and they’ll tell you that its easiest to organise at this level, Steps 5 and 6. That is true, mainly because clubs tend to be used to doing the essentials, such as coping with a crowd, and doing a programme. This weekend saw the whole process in microcosm though, from some clubs  doing no more than cope, to others seizing the opportunity and making the most of it. 

The United Counties League continue to be a joy to work with, and with the break due to the pandemic is was lovely to see their officials to the fore again. Thanks to them, all the clubs, and all who volunteered, watched, and played in the games. 

And after all that’s said and done, I’m not sure I’ll ever have biriyani for breakfast again; but I won’t rule it out! We’ve got the Southern Counties East Hop in October the host clubs can treat that as a challenge!

Dedicated to the memory of John Maloney a groundhopper who died a few weeks after this event. There’s a couple of photos in this, and the previous article. Rest in peace John.