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Saturday 8th April 2023

11:00 Hellenic League Division 2 East

MORTIMER 2 (Gorman 22 Parfitt-Bowes 57)


Att 209

14:30 Hellenic League Division 2 East

TAPLOW UNITED 2 (Eaves 35 Umbewa 38)

CHALFONT WASPS 2 (Drummond 45 Sava 76)

Pereira penalty saved 90

Att 140

17:30 Hellenic League Division 2 East

WOODCOTE FC 4 (Allen 19og Webber 28 Nowell 45 Downes 84)


Att 243

Entry & Programme for each game – £4

I suppose it had to happen at some point, I actually took a day off- from GroundhopUK at least! It had certainly been a while, to the point that I’d actually got married, separated, divorced, engaged, and married again during all those hops we’ve organised over the last 15-plus years. But the great beauty of GroundHopUK these days is that it isn’t just about Chris Berezai and I. Since the Bedfordshire League decided to spurn Craig Dabbs’ skills, kindness and hard work, he’s come on board- your loss Mr Francis, and now my wife Robyn deals with the social media too. There are also no end of folks that help us out, and there’s the various league officials to do some of the leg work too.

So faced with 10 game hop that involved 9 revisits I was able to finally take a day away from it, and while everyone else watched Feckenham and Worcester Raiders I had a lie-in and fretted through Oxford United’s 1-all draw with Sheffield Wednesday. I didn’t miss the football particularly, but I did miss the company. Perhaps that’s a comment on how I view the organised hops- and yes I do joke that my role it all is me taking coachloads of people to places I’ve visited before!

So, I made for Mortimer on Saturday morning feeling a little spare, I’m not used to joining things half-way through! I’d visited the Alfred Palmer Memorial Ground back in 2012, and it’s fair to say I didn’t enjoy the experience, due to entirely to the antics of the manager and his assistant. Thankfully they were no longer in situ, and sadly neither are the pitch-side railings too. The club proved to be good hosts, I grabbed a coffee and a bacon roll and got engrossed in the whole experience. The ground, by the way is named after the Palmer half of biscuit makers Huntley & Palmers, you may remember Highmoor-Ibis playing at Palmer Park in nearby Reading a decade ago. 

There was though one hint back to what I’d seen 11 years previously. For all of that day’s games there was only an appointed referee, a factor of the general shortage of officials. So when a lobbed shot looked over the line, and the club linesmen claimed he couldn’t see it the veteran referee had no one to turn to for advice. I was close by, it was a long way over the line. I’m a long way from blaming either Mortimer past or present for the lack of linesmen, but the message to treat referees how you’d like to be treated yourself is fairly universal.

I did feel a little sorry for Chinnor who every time I’ve seen them show what a good club they are, but they were second best here. 

For me Taplow United represented a revisit of a mere 4 years. I remembered the Old Paludians less for the view of the railway line, and more for what opponents that day Stokenchurch said when another groundhopper asked what they were going to do for their hop game just over a week later? The answer added up to pretty much nothing and there’s was the worst hosted hop game I’ve been involved with.

Thankfully Taplow were a massive improvement, and their catering really was top notch. I though enjoyed watching the superb way their volunteers managed to both man the gate, sell programmes and marshal the car park, all at the same time. They were pushed for space too which made their efforts even more commendable.

In fact, the only real sadness was the amount of groundhoppers we lost to other games, mainly to Tadley Calleva it seemed. Now I get it, I really do, we’ve no plans to hop the Combined Counties League – they haven’t asked – and many groundhoppers will tend to prioritise Step 6 and above so I can see the attraction of going “Off Piste” But as organisers we do have a responsibility to our host clubs, so next time you see a more “Defensive” schedule expect me to use Taplow as an example.

Those that chose to stick with the hop saw a good game. I’ll always have time to Chalfont Wasps, their ground with a little co-operation from the local authorities could fulfil Step 6 gradings and they always look a good side when we see them. Here they could and should have won this one. Nick Pereira’s saved penalty in stoppage time seeing them have to settle for just a point.

The Recreation Ground, Woodcote represented my only new ground of the weekend, which is odd to put it mildly. As a committee man at the North Berkshire League, I make it my business to visit every single ground in the league. My only excuse is that for now only Woodcote’s Reserves play in the NBFL, but even then Woodcote is only 20 miles from my home. 

As an Oxford United fan I remember seeing plenty of the club in Oxon Senior Cup, both as Woodcote and the merged Woodcote & Stoke Row (another nearby village) that existed from 2001 to 2021. They may be Oxfordshire-based but they’ve always tended to look east for their leagues, apart from the North Berks they’ve played much of their existence in the Reading, now the Thames Valley Premier League.

This was a classic case of football on the village green, and the club’s gambit of getting people to park in the school next door was great thinking. The real shame was that a lack of facilities meant that there was no hot food available.  As it was the last game of the game the local chip shop saw trade I’d have preferred the club to have benefited from. 

The oddity was the opponents though. I’d seen FC Beaconsfield at their Holtspur Playing Fields home and found them to be a thoroughly charming club. But it was obvious to everyone here that they really weren’t comfortable being there. There’s only roughly 25 miles between the grounds, and the hop meant that this game only kicked-off 2 and a half hours later than normal. I’m obviously not party to all the politics of it, and on a simple level I’m just glad they showed up even if they did lose heavily!