, , , , , , , , ,

Sunday 5th March 2023 ko 14:30

North West Counties League Division One South

STAFFORD TOWN 2 (Simcox 27 57)

ABBEY HEY 1 (Kirkman 90)

Att 489

Entry £6

Programme £1.50

The great mercy of this particular Sunday on the North West Counties Hop is that we didn’t get the chance to get cold, in fact and don’t say this too loudly, the day was actually a relaxing meander through two charming Stafford clubs. Robyn and I even managed to get home at a sensible time after it all- that will never do!

Stafford Town were formed in 1976, and led a fairly peripatetic existence until March 2012 when they moved into their first permanent home, Evans Park, named after chairman Gordon Evans. I visited for a rare Stafford Town vs Rangers derby in 2012. The big change since then is the installation of a 3G pitch courtesy of a joint venture with Stafford Borough Council in 2016. It’s helped create a fine community facility even if the posts to help divide the pitch into thirds do slightly impede the view from the stand. 

But this was an afternoon that was all about the facilities. The fact is that Evans Park was built to accommodate a crowd of this size, and the club made ample and effective use of it. When, the next day you eat a Stafford Town meal deal at work, it must mean the club did okay? 

The surprise was how much Stafford Town have struggled this season, this win did ease the pressure on them, but as I write they’re in the bottom three, and are 6 points from safety. It does seem odd to see all 3 clubs in the relegation were host clubs on this hop, with both Rocester and Foley Meir both mathematically down, with only the AGM a potential safety net against County football.

That sobering fact does hint on how I will view this hop in the future. Having all the clubs in the lower division made a lot of geographical sense, there were virtually no Premier Division clubs in the footprint we covered. It meant we saw lower average crowds than we’ve seen in the past, and there were no “Big” clubs to supply large quantities of away fans either. It meant for a more even hop, and all our host clubs did well; which reflects well on both them, and the league they play in. It was lovely to see Martin Fallon from the league at every single game, despite ill-health.

I headed for home content, knowing that the great beauty of the North West Counties Hop, is that all parties know and understand the other. As I said in the Ellesmere Rangers article we are speaking to other leagues, and we are rapidly getting to a point where every league operating at Step 5 has either hosted a hop, tried and failed, or turned down the whole concept. The aim will always be the level of understanding we’ve reached in the North-West. I look forward to the next installment.