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Autumn Avalanche

Autumn Avalanche

After the North Berks hop, you might have thought that the mad football hopping world might wind down from the crazy merry-go-round, into calmer waters. Not a bit of it; it seemed that games far and near continued to fly past with machine gun rapidity. Even so, I fell one short of fifty games by the end of September, a record I never seem able to achieve!

Another trip to Hitchin Town on a Monday night brought with it a welcome home win, but the crowd was several hundred down on my previous visit!

Not the best of pictures of The Canary Shop at Hitchin Town!

Monday 24th September 2012  FA Cup with Budweiser       k.o.:- 7.45pm

2nd Qualifying Round – Replay

Hitchin Town                                  5             Whitehawk                    0

Luke Gregson 6

John Frendo 24 (pen), 46

Dean Gilbert 66, Ieuan Lewis 69

referee:- A. De Costa                                       attendance:- 185

The following evening, I trooped over to Desborough for their match against last season’s champions, Long Buckby. The previous year, Desborough had a very poor spell in the first half of the season. This year, however, they have started much more confidently and with both Kevin and Michael Byrne playing and Tom and Eddie Mills also playing, they made mincemeat of the champions!

Action in the Long Buckby goalmouth at The Waterworks Field, Desborough.

Tues 25th Sept 2012 Chromasport & Trophies United Counties League  k.o.:- 7.45pm

Premier Division

Desborough Town                    5                   Long Buckby                     0

referee:- W. Bright (Rinstead)                    attendance:- 58

Two 5-0s in two games! On Wednesday, I went with my son Mike to Barrow-on-Soar, where we met up with Chris. Mike was pretty impressed with the facilities. He enjoyed pie and peas and a couple of pints to wash it down with! In a fairly lacklustre encounter, the home side picked up three points pretty convincingly!

Barrow Town FC

My son, Mike at the entrance to Barrow Town FC

Barrow Town FC. You can just see in the background, the footbridge across the dual carriageway adjoining the ground - a good vantage point if you can't afford the entrance fee!

Wednesday 26th September 2012   Was Midlands Counties League   k.0.:- 7.45pm

Barrow Town                              2                        Ellistown                             0

Craig Noble, Callum Ross

referee:- Mr. James Johnson                             attendance:- 61

I had told Chris that I was going to Wingate & Finchley on Saturday for an FA Carlsberg Trophy match, but in the event, I changed my mind and with the aid of my senior rail card I made the long journey down to north Kent, changing at St Pancras and Rochester and the football ground barely five minutes walk from the station! This was Whitstable Town, who ply their trade in the lower reaches of the Isthmian League. They were hosting visitors, Harrow Borough, from the Premier Division of the same league.

The Belmont Ground is a neat and tidy stadium adjacent to (but not sharing with) the local cricket club. It is a friendly club with a club house and refreshment kiosk where the prices are extremely reasonable! It was a bright sunny day, but not particularly warm.

The Belmont Ground, home of Whitstable Town FC

Whitstable had not enjoyed the best of starts to the season, having lost their first three games. Since then, however, they had won two and drawn another and consequently were sitting almost exactly half way in the Division 1 (South) table. Harrow Borough, a division higher, were not faring well, either! They had won but two of their first six encounters and lost the other four.

Whitstable Town FC

By half time, Whitstable had a two goal advantage. In the second half, Harrow came out with all guns blazing and besieged the home goal with tenacity and determination. It was all to no avail. Whitstable hung on and Harrow had a penalty saved and it was the former who advanced, £2,500 the richer, into the next round!

Whitstable Town 2 Harrow Borough 0

FA Carlsberg Trophy - 1st Round Qualifying, Saturday 29th September 2012

Harrow Borough pressing in the second half at Whitstable Town in The FA Carlsberg Trophy.

Saturday 29th Sept 2012   FA Carlsberg Trophy 1st Qualifying Round  k.o.:- 3.00pm

Whitstable Town                            2                        Harrow Borough                         0

Damien Abel 17, John Beechcroft 43

referee:- Ian Bentley                                                    attendance:- 161

The following Monday, I had planned to go to a new ground at Birstall United. In fact I did go  there but there was no game on! When I got the reply to the e-mail I had sent to the club, the following day, it told me that they had apparently moved the fixture forward to Tuesday! So, there I was at 7.00pm on a Monday evening, when I suddenly remembered that Coventry Sphinx were at home! I quickly selected the route via sat-nav (32 miles 58 minutes) and set off at speed! I got there in 38 minutes and comfortably in time for the 7.45pm kick-off!

It was a tight match in which the away side were strong and determined and after 90 minutes at 2-2, you would have put your mortgage on extra time! However, with scant seconds remaining, the home side scored to take them, a little undeservedly, through to the next round.

Coventry Sphinx 3 Coleshill Town 2

Monday 1st October 2012  Baker Joiner Midland Football Alliance   k.o.:- 7.45pm

League Cup 1st Round

Coventry Sphinx                            3                   Coleshill Town                     2

Kaim Galdins 37, Kyle Rhodes 65                  Ryan Duxbury 50

Christian Jordan 90                                            Sam Wilson 73

referee:- R. Cairns                                               attendance:- 54

The following evening, another cup tie, this time in Northamptonshire, actually did go to extra time and a goal in the 119th minute settled a very tense, defensive encounter.

Northants Senior (Hillier) Cup 1st Round: S&L Corby 0 Desborough Town 1 after extra time

Tuesday 2nd October 2012  Northants Senior (Hillier) Cup  k.o.:- 7.30pm

1st Round

S&L Corby                         0                    Desborough Town                 1     after extra time

Jack Burrows 119

referee:- Mr. G. McFarlane                    attendance:- 48

I stayed in Corby for the following evening’s match! Corby Town, who had endured a disastrous start to the season, losing their first five league matches, had enjoyed something of a mini-revival under new manager, Chris Plummer, with two wins and a draw from his first four games in control. This evening they entertained a Droylsden side who don’t travel well to the midlands (they lost this fixture 5-2 last season) and a home goal inside two minutes settled the nerves and determined the direction of the whole game. Droylsden played well in parts, but they were eventually overwhelmed by the home side who netted two goals in added time at the end of the match!

Wednesday 3rd October 2012 Blue Square Bet North  k.o.:- 7.45pm

Corby Town                                 5                       Droylsden                      0

Josh Moreman 2, 75, 90 (pen)

Moyo (og) 46,

Nethanial Wedderburn 90

referee:- Michael Blackledge (Peterborough)    attendance:- 310

On Thursday evening, I went down to Gloucestershire to see my eldest son who is about to become a dad for the first time. We drove the thirty or so miles from Chipping Norton, where he lives, to Bishops Cleeve, near Cheltenham for a Southern League (Red Insure) Cup match that had appeared on neither of the two team’s websites, but had been confirmed by e-mail from each of them.

Just as we drew into Cheltenham, my son got a phone call to say that his wife had locked herself out of the house! This happened in April too, when we went to see Hook Norton playing Purton. We carried on to Bishops Cleeve football ground where we exchanged places and he drove off in my car back to Chipping Norton to let his wife into their house! The amazing thing was that when he had driven the thirty or so miles to let her in…she had the effrontry to suggest that it was his fault that she had left her keys in the house that morning! ” Didn’t you notice them?” she enquired! He didn’t re-appear until just before half-time!

Thursday night football is a rare commodity in this day and age, so there were a few hoppers there, mostly from the West Midlands, but the crowd was sparse for a fixture between two teams barely ten miles apart! It was a good game too! Evesham United, recently relegated from the Premier Division of The Evo-Stik Southern League, looked the better side, despite conceding the first goal and after ninety minutes the score was locked on 1-1. In the first period of extra time, Evesham clocked up a two goal lead, but by half time in extra time Bishops Cleeve had pulled a goal back and then with ten minutes to go, they drew level and the match finished all square.

Bishops Cleeve take the lead with a penalty.

Cleeve had much the better of the penalty shoot out. Evesham missed twice and Bishops Cleeve but once and they went through 5-4. It is a tiny place but with a very modern football stadium. I had a friend, Ceri,  – a former colleague from Luton – who used to be headteacher at the primary school there, now probably, like me, long since retired!

Thursday 4th October 2012 Evo-Stik Southern League  k.o.:- 7.30pm

Red Insure League Cup Preliminary Round

Bishops Cleeve                     3                Evesham United                      3  (aet, score at 90 mins 1-1)

Michael Davis 27 (pen)                                      Leigh Downing 29

Will Gayton 105, 109                               Marcus Palmer 100, Lee Osbourne 104

referee:- L. Sheridan (Gloucester)         attendance:- 55

It had begun to rain during the match on Thursday evening and it continued throughout Friday and deep into the evening! I had a longish drive down to Long Melford, near Sudbury, in Suffolk and was rewarded with some very warm hospitality from club officials. Indeed after the match, I was invited to join the officials and enjoy the repast on offer! I was also given a short history of the club, which marked its centenary in 1968, making it one of the oldest clubs in the country. It had a comprehensive history of the club and several nostalgic old photographs!

There were a few hoppers there too, whom I recognised, including the two guys from Hull (which put my ninety mile journey into perspective!). They were staying in Long Melford overnight and joining the Beds hop on the morrow!

I can’t say that the football was of the prettiest I have ever seen, but, charitably, I will put that down to the foul weather which continued unrelentingly throughout the match. Long Melford were much the better side, but found it difficult to impose themselves on the game and it was only late on that they secured a comfortable victory.

Friday 5th October 2012 Suffolk Senior Cup 1st Round  k.o.:- 7.45pm

Long Melford                             3                          Cornard United                 0

Ashley Skeggs 24, Erroll Durell 55

Martin Westcott 90+4

referee:- E. Goodman                                              attendance:- 88

The Bedfordshire Hop

After the rains of Friday and especially Friday evening, the following day dawned bright and clear and quite warm, too. It was the day of the Bedfordshire Hop and around one hundred hoppers had descended on the county from across the country (including my two friends from Hull who were at Long Melford last evening).

The first game was at Elstow. Elstow has an abbey founded in 1078 by Judith the niece of William The Conqueror. However, Henry VIII in his dissolution of the monasteries, had it razed to the ground in 1539 and now, nothing but a small parish church remains. A famous parish church, nonetheless for it was there in 1628 that John Bunyan was baptised! The football team are called Elstow Abbey and play within sight of the former abbey site and parish church.

Today, they were playing Pavenham who had made a strong start to the season winning all their opening three games! There were two brothers in the team and a proud mum watching from the sidelines. Mum was a care worker in the community and dad was a farmer, but he wasn’t there because he got too nervous watching his sons perform! The younger son, a defender is presently a student at Nottingham University, the older studied at Sheffield University. It was the older, a striker who scored the final goal in a resounding away victory!

Elstow Abbey 0 Pavenham 3

Saturday 6th October 2012  Bedfordshire County League   k.o.:- 11.00am

Division 1

Elstow Abbey                               0                     Pavenham                         3

                                                                                       Stephen Sims 55

                                                                                     Michael Bates 67

                                                                                    James Owen 88

referee:- Brian Humphries                               attendance:- 103

The second match was the least agreeable. It was the only match in The Premier Division of the league and it was a fairly bad tempered affair with some appalling abuse dished out by both sides! The teams lay second and third in the division and a draw was just about a fair result.

Harvey Close, Upper Caldecote, Beds

I had come down in April 2011 for an evening match, but when I arrived all was locked and barred and I found out that the game was to be played down the road under lights at Biggleswade United. So, although I had seen them play a home game, this was the first time I had seen them play at home!

Caldecote 1 Marston Shelton Rovers 1 - Bedfordshire County League, Premier Division

Saturday 6th October 2012   Bedfordshire County League    k.o.:- 2.00pm

Premier Division

Caldecote                           1                Marston Shelton Rovers                   1

Tom Cookman 59                                  Jamie Cerminara  33

referee:- Marc Deans                             attendance:- 105

The final game was played in distinctly cooler conditions at The Bedford Road Recreation Ground in Sandy, home of Sandy FC. Parking was at a premium and I found a spot eventually in the town centre! Craig had organised matters well and despite arriving later than usual, my programme was waiting for me!

Sandy started at a cracking pace and were two goals up inside fifteen minutes. Brickhill Tigers (who once plied their trade under the soubriquet of “Meppershall Jurassic”), pulled both goals back just before half time and the second half produced deadlock!

Sandy Football Club

Sandy 2 Brickhill Tigers 2 - Bedfordshire County League Division 1. Joe Price equalises for Brickhill Tigers from the penalty spot in added time at the end of the first half.

And that was it! Three games all over in the twinkling of an eye. Old friends and acquaintances greeted and new ones made and within five minutes of the final whistle, the hoppers had departed to all points of the compass. In my case, I dropped Andy off in Bedford where he had a bus to catch to Milton Keynes and a train from there to London Euston, underground to Victoria and from Victoria a long long coach journey all the way back to Newcastle-upon-Tyne in the middle of the night!

As for me, I was home for eight o’clock!

Saturday 6th October 2012   Bedfordshire County League  k.o.:- 4.45pm

Division 1

Sandy                            2                         Brickhill Tigers                      2

Chris Nicholls 2                                        Gary Gillespie 38

Ryan Burgess  14                                       Joe Price (pen) 45+1

referee:- Liam Knight                              attendance:- 101

After The Bedfordshire Hop

The following Monday evening, I again took advantage of Hitchin Town playing on a Monday and went to see their FA Cup Replay against Hastings United. To be honest, I had been a little surprised to hear that Hitchin had claimed a 2-2 draw down at Hastings on Saturday, as I didn’t really rate their chances (it is not the best Hitchin Town I’ve ever seen!) and I couldn’t see them as anything more than cannon fodder in the unlikely event that they reached the final qualifying round. Alas for them, it was not to be. They were beaten more easily than the score suggests and it is Hastings United who progress to the 4th Qualifying Round on 20th October!

Monday 8th October 2012      FA Cup with Budweiser                 k.o.:- 7.45pm

3rd Qualifying Round Replay

Hitchin Town                        1                       Hastings United                         2

John Frendo (pen) 58                                   Bradley Goldberg 31

                                                                              Sean Ray 74

referee:- S. Pawley                                          attendance:- 289

On Tuesday, I had a plethora of matches to consider and eventually, I alighted on a United Counties League fixture at Market Deeping. Deeping Rangers were playing near neighbours Spalding United, who had recently been relegated from The Evo-Stik Northern Premier League Division 1 South. Rangers usually post crowds of around the one hundred mark, but this local derby more than doubled that on the coldest night of the season so far! It was so cold that even with overcoat, scarf, hat and gloves, my toes were pinging and my hands raw!

I would have expected, before the match, that Spalding (won eight, drawn one lost one) would have been too good for their country cousins (won six, drawn three, lost two). Not a bit of it!  Spalding were left chasing shadows and man of the match Chris Logan opened the scoring for the home side, who doubled their lead with ten minutes to go. Spalding fans, and there were plenty, left the ground seriously underwhelmed!

Outgang Road, Market Deeping

Deeping Rangers 2 Spalding United 0


Speaking to Jeremy about the crowd, he asked me if I had been at Rushden Town last Saturday where a crowd of 1,156 attended for a UCL Division 1 match against the latest phoenix team – AFC Rushden & Diamonds.

Tuesday 9th Oct 2012 Chromasport & Trophies United Counties League  k.o.:- 7.45pm

Premier Division

Deeping Rangers                       2                  Spalding United                         0

Chris Logan 40

Harry Deane 83

referee:- Chris Goode                                         attendance:- 240

Finally, the last match before I go on holiday on Friday, was another FA Cup replay, this time locally at Corby Town.

They were playing Histon, whom they dismissed at the second qualifying round stage last year. After a 1-1 draw at Histon on Saturday, confidence at Steel Park was running high, with £7,500 in prize money and Hendon the visitor to the winners in the 4th Qualifying Round.

The entrance to Steel Park, home of Corby Town FC

For a long period, it seemed that the home side would have an easy passage. They took the lead just before half time and missed a penalty just after half time, but then doubled their lead on the hour mark. Then with less than ten minutes to go, the home team had iconic centre half Stefan Galinski (on loan from Nottingham Forest) sent off for an ill judged intervention where he was the last defender. From the resulting free kick, Histon immediately scored and the last ten minutes were particularly uncomfortable for the home side who nonetheless scraped through!

Claudio Hoban's 84th minute free kick still on its way into the net (look under the floodlight!) as Histon pull a goal back against Corby Town

Wednesday 10th October 2012  FA Cup with Budweiser    k.o.:- 7.45pm

3rd Qualifying Round Replay

Corby Town                         2                        Histon                      1

Josh Moreman 44                                         Claudio Hoban 84

Ryan Semple 62

Stefan Galinski – s/o 83

referee:- Anthony Coggins (Bicester)     attendance:- 510

Fifty-one goals in fifteen games doesn’t sound an awful lot when compared with the Welsh Hop, but there were some pretty entertaining encounters and some interesting visits! As usual, there were no games on Thursday evening, so my next match will be at the quaintly named Barnoldswick Town (“Barrick” to the locals)!

Will you be there?






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