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Northern Counties East(er) Ground Hop 2013

I am not a religious man
I place my faith and loyalty.
Like any other football fan.
In the demi -gods I see.
Performing minor miracles
of ball control and football skill
In overcoming obstacles.
To score the goal which will fulfil.
My ambitions for my team
Which is to see them win again
The match, that is my dream.
A team of dedicated men.
The faithful pray to save their souls
But football fans just pray for goals

adapted from ivor e. hogg



Monday 25th March 2013 EUFA U-17 Championship k.o.:- 7.00pm
Elite Group

England                          1                                     Russia                                    2
Aleksandr Makarov (og) 6                                     Ayaz Gulier 32, Ramil Sheydaer 51
referee:- Mads-Kristoffer Kristoffersen (Denmark)                        attendance:- 546


The England tean sing their National anthem

On an unseasonably freezing evening at The Pirelli Stadium in Burton-upon-Trent (home of Burton Albion FC), England’s young eagles were undone by a cleverer, more tactically aware Russian team who went behind early on but came back strongly to win the tie. The two Russian goals were cracking efforts, one from range and one just inside the penalty area. England, though they huffed and puffed with great determination, looked increasingly unlikely to breach the Russian defence after that initial breakthrough.


Russia now lead the table with two wins. England, having already beaten Portugal, will need to beat Slovenia on Thursday to qualify.

Tuesday 26th March 2013 Evo-Stik Northern Premier League k.o.:- 7.45pm
Premier Division

Nantwich Town            0                                Chorley                                      1
                                                                                      Andy Teague 42
referee:- Simon Brown (Redditch)                     attendance:- 158



Although this is the crest of Nantwich Town FC, it is actually the badge of :-

Nantwich Town Independent Supporters Association

It was 109 miles to Nantwich and at evening rush hour that was a long journey! It was well worth it however, for Chorley maintained their winning streak. This was their fifth win in a row and although promotion this season is out of the question, they will have a large say in who makes it to the Northern Premier League play-offs.


A far superior stadium since my last visit, but somehow lacks the charm of the old arena


I had been to Nantwich before, but that was to  the old ground at Jackson Avenue. I was pretty impressed with the new Weavers Stadium. The small crowd was probably occasioned by England’s live (and inept) performance in Montenegro, but that was on large screen in the club-house. There was a large travelling contingent which probably outnumbered the home support and they were rewarded just before half-time with a goal from captain Andy Teague. The rest of the game, however, was largely a dour struggle and a draw might have been a fairer result!


I drove the 109 miles back in just on 90 minutes!

Wednesday 27th March 2013   Coventry Charity Cup     k.o.:- 7.30pm


Bolehall Swifts                    1                 Folly Lane OB                      0

Nathan Thompson 90+3

referee:- Adam Lenton                             attendance:- 79


Folly Lane OB play their football in the premier division of The Coventry Alliance. They lie third but a long way off Woodlands in first spot! Bolehall Swifts are from The Athium Midland Combination and putatively some three divisions above their lowly rivals. A massacre was expected!

This was my first visit to The Copsewood Sports and Social Centre in Binley and I was impressed with the facilities and also with the welcome. It reminded me of the sports facilities at Stewarts & Lloyds in Corby, with rugby, bowls, football and cricket catered for. It had grown out of the old Marconi and GEC companies who relocated to Coventry in the 1920s from Salford.There were no programmes, but helpful officials ensured that I had the team line-ups and I enjoyed a pint of rarely seen Brew XI in the bar.


The massacre never occurred. The Old Boys played with spirit and determination and an enthralling game unfolded which I was certain would go to extra time and penalties. That was not to be, for a goal from striker Nathan Thompson, who bundled in, almost on the stroke of full time, took the senior team through to a final against Alvis at The Ricoh Arena.

Thursday 28th March 2013 North West Counties League k.o.:- 7.45pm

Division 1

Atherton Collieries                         0                           Rochdale Town                        0

referee:- Mr Andrew Sykes                                            attendance:- 133


The eagerly anticipated Northern Counties East(er) Hop began with a postponement. AFC Emley just couldn’t clear the snow from their pitch and Chris and Laurence at the very last minute successfully concluded negotiations with North-West Counties side Atherton Collieries to take the groundhop party for their Thursday evening fixture. What is more, they ensured that the party all had a programme and their small refreshment cabin worked overtime to provide welcome sustenance for the travellers!


That the match, sadly, did not live up to the heroics of our intrepid leaders was of little consequence. From a personal point of view, I had actually gone to see a match at Collieries Alder Street ground last October and when I got there, I found, to my great disappointment, that it had been called off due to a waterlogged pitch. Tonight’s match was, indeed, a bonus!


Friday 29th March 2013  Northern Counties East League     k.o.:- 11.00am

Premier Division

Glasshoughton Welfare       2                Nostell Miners Welfare                             0

Wayne Ball 64 (og)

Tom Woolard 90

Daz Young – penalty saved 80m

referee:- Duncan Street (Normanton)                attendance:- 307


The crowds this year were considerably up on last year. Last year an average of 264 attended the nine matches, whilst this year, the average for the seven NCEL fixtures was 544. Even if you take out the Bridlington ‘Derby’, the average for the remaining six matches was 357. Twice, the record for attendances at NCEL ‘hops’ was broken. Firstly at Pontefract Collieries and then the massive attendance at The Queensgate Stadium in Bridlington.


The weather remained very cold – but sometimes quite bright – across all the fixtures. It was sometimes a relief to board the coach and get the circulation back into ice-cold feet. On the M62 across to Atherton, there was evidence of substantial snowfall still remaining from last week. However, at the matches in Yorkshire, there was scant remaining snow and later on the ‘hop’ even a suggestion of a softening of the pitches.

We were dreading a second successive 0-0 result, but two goals in the final twenty-five minutes ensured victory for the home side and was the prelude to an avalanche of goals later in the day!

Friday 29th March 2013  Northern Counties East League   k.o.:- 1.45pm

Division 1

Pontefract Collieries                        2                             Selby Town                           2

Luke Durham 30                                                                  Daniel Gray 1, 26

Andrew Catton (pen) 83

referee:- Craig Hainsworth                                              attendance:- 424



Pontefract Collieries had a couple of locally brewed ales available and a quite splendid kitchen. They really ought to have defeated lowly Selby Town, but their rivals shocked them with a goal in the very first minute, and then a second before the half-hour mark. Pontefract pulled one back before the interval and after much huffing and puffing in the second half, they snatched a late equaliser which they probably deserved…but no more!


Friday 29th March 2013           Northern Counties East League   k.o.:- 4.30pm

Division 1

Hemsworth Miners Welfare           0            Knaresborough Town                       4

                                                                                  Steve Bromley 12 (pen), 17 (pen)

                                                                                  Joel Freeston 25, 36

referee:- Mr David Sullivan                                      attendance:- 415


Hemsworth were mugged in the first twenty-five minutes and found themselves deservedly 0-4 down at the interval. Whatever was said in the dressing room at half-time had the desired effect. The second half was much more competitive and the visitors spent much of it on the back foot. However, the home side were unable to breach their defence and had to be content with keeping a clean sheet … if only in the second half!


Friday 29th March 2013  Northern Counties East League    k.o.:- 7.45pm

Division 1

Athersley Recreation                           8                 Askern Villa                               1

Steven Bennett 12, 43, 73, 79                                  Mat Brown 33

Tom Harban 29 (pen)

Jason Bentley 67, 75

Joe Thornton 77

referee:- Mr David Evans (South Yorkshire)         attendance:- 509


It was a very cold sharp evening at Athersley. Substantial improvements had been made to the ground, but with a large crowd of over five hundred, certain parts of the ground felt very cramped. Athersley are top and seemingly a shoe-in for promotion. Askern Villa are one place off the bottom. In the first half, the away team competed to the best of their ability, frequently employing three strikers. They were rewarded for their efforts with a goal on the half hour mark, but by then they were already two goals behind. In the second half, they were swamped by a marauding home attack which added a further five goals in the rout of their lowly rivals.


Saturday 30th March 2013   Northern Counties East League    k.o.:- 11.30am

Premier Division

Bridlington Town                      3                      Scarborough Athletic                  3

Chris Batchelor 22                                                  Patrick Miller 20

Nathan Cook 40                                                       Jimmy Beadle 45

Josh Greening 55                                                     Ryan Blott 48

referee:- Mr Neil Guest (Cleethorpes)                attendance:- 1,569


The sun shone in Bridlington and a huge crowd flocked to see the hosts play their tenants. Despite the sunshine, it was still very cold, but the football was of the quality to warm the cockles. It was end to end stuff with the bludgeon Athletic strike force tempered by the rapier incisiveness of the home attack. The game ebbed and flowed but a draw was, in the end, a fair result.


Just before the final whistle, a home player fell awkwardly and dislocated his elbow in what looked to be a very painful accident. As the supporters poured out of the ground at the end, a lone ambulance came to collect the injured player.


Saturday 30th March 2013    Noerthern Counties East League    k.o.:- 3.30pm

Premier Division

Pickering Town                         3                    Worksop Parramore                     0

Liam Shepherd 30

John Heads 41

Lewis Taylor 82

referee:- Mr Mark Dwyer                                 attendance:- 302


This was my favourite ground of the hop. It was neat and tidy. It had a large club-house and I enjoyed a very satisfying portion of home-made Cottage Pie, peas and gravy. They share their pitch with the local cricket club and the score-box, for cricket, was actually inside the football pitch fenced area. The temporary fencing at this three-sided ground is removed for the start of the cricket season.


The ground had a plateau along the cricket pitch side which dropped quite severely towards the halfway line. There was cover on three sides and seating down one side and behind the far goal. The home side started warily, but after the opening goal on the half hour mark, they never looked back and they really should have scored more than three goals!


The seated stand behind the goal at the far end


You can just see the temporary barrier between cricket and football pitches on the left

Saturday 30th March 2013   Northern Counties East League   k.o.:- 7.30pm

Premier Division

Tadcaster Albion                       5                    Barton Town OB                           1

Terry Taylor 39, 67                                             Ashley Dexter 20

Stuart Price 80

Phil Winn 85 (og)

Chris Youlden 88

Terry Taylor – missed penalty 2

Callum Ward s/o 65

referee:- Ben Ballantyre                                attendance:- 288


Tadcaster Albion play inside the grounds of the Tadcaster Brewery works. As at the previous venues, the club had excelled itself in providing a fine selection of hot food for the visiting hoppers and despite the lowest attendance of the NCEL part of the hop, the ground felt pretty full. Having missed a second minute penalty, the home side found themselves a goal behind after twenty minutes. They had drawn level by half-time, but it took the a sending off in the 65th minute to galvanise them into action, just when we were all thinking that it might be curtains for them! Four goals in the last twenty-three minutes completely stunned their opponents who were left shell-shocked at the end of a pulsating match!


I was locked into a crowd on the halfway line with Lorraine, the mother of Josh, who was playing on the right wing for the home side. Her other son, Dan, was in France for a football tournament and both sons are proficient, not only at football, but also at cricket. Lorraine herself is a hairdresser in York. She has spent many selfless hours ferrying and watching her sons play football. Sport runs in their family. Both grand-dads were sound local cricketers and Lorraine’s dad even now comes to watch his grand-sons play. She must be a proud Mum!


She won’t thank me for this picture, I know, but I enjoyed my chat with her. It brought the ‘hop’ to a very pleasant conclusion

Once again, it had been an exhilarating experience. This was the second NCEL Groundhop and what impressed me the most was the willingness of the clubs to put themselves out for the travelling supporters. Most grounds had team sheets available. All grounds had the teams displayed in good time. The culinary fare was imaginative and plentiful. There were plenty of stewards to ensure ease of marshalling and there was, at all grounds, an air of goodwill, good sense and enjoyment. Much of the credit for this has to go to Groundhop UK and Chris Berezai, who, with the support of Laurence Reade, organised and arranged the event with such meticulous attention to detail that every eventuality was catered for … well, almost every eventuality! However, they came up trumps even when unforeseen disasters occurred, nonchalantly pulling the plum of Atherton Collieries out of the hat like master magicians. The organisation was impressive!

Will we visit The NCEL again? I hope so, but this ‘hop’, even so, will live long in the memory!

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