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Cumbrian Hop

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan

A stately pleasure dome decree

Where Alph, the sacred river ran

Through caverns measureless to man

Down to a sunless sea

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1798)

Monday 5th August 2013 Pre-Season Friendly k.o.:- 7.30pm

Graham Street Prims                     1            Gresley                                      3
Matty Harris 89                                                    Dean Withers 23
                                                                                   Royce Turville 43
                                                                                  Dean Oliver 75
referee:- Liam Jones                                             attendance:-66

It had been pretty wet and miserable all day and when I got to Borrowash early in the evening and had a quick look around a very Spartan arena, I decided that I deserved a pint and repaired to a local hostelry. The ground was largely composed of a field surrounded by a wooden fence with a covered area behind one goal which had seats right at the front in a long line, but only standing room behind.


There was an excellent tea bar which served fifteen different varieties of soup (I chose cauliflower and stilton). The rain had abated and a friendly crowd made up mainly of eager mums and young friends of the players saw a hard fought contest won fairly easily in the end by the away side who were two divisions higher than their rivals.

Wednesday 7th August 2013    Cherry Red Records Combined Counties League  k.o.:- 7.45pm

Premier Division

Croydon                        0                                      South Park                     3

                                                                                   Matthew Ward 7

                                                                                   Kieran Lavery 66

                                                                                   Chris Smith (pen) 74

referee:-Ryan O’Sullivan (New Addington)  attendance:- 83


This was a long journey by train to St Pancras and then by tube to London Bridge where I caught a second train to Elmers End and rounded off the journey with a trip by tram down to Arena. The Arena in question was The Croydon Arena home of Croydon FC (and AFC Croydon Athletic) and, almost unbelievably, it was my first foray into the Combined Counties League! “The Trams” were playing host this evening (following on their impressive 4-1 away victory at Frimley Green on the opening day of the season) to South Park from Redhill.


Arena Tram stop and the trams after whom Croydon are nicknamed!


The ground was an athletics stadium with an impressive stand down one side and covered areas along the opposite side (erected in more fortunate times when Croydon graced The Isthmian League). The bar was outside the ground and was a pretty impressive affair! Black clouds darken the horizon, however. There are plans to build a school on the site  and both tenants may find themselves groundless!


This evening, Croydon were outclassed. South Park ran the show from start to finish and the only question was: how did they not score more goals? There were quite a few hoppers amongst the larger than average crowd (last season’s average crowd was 49). Some of them were intending to take in the first day of The Northern League “hop” on this coming Saturday and I may meet them again, there!


I returned the way I came and the London train eventually dawdled into Kettering at 00.41 and I made it home not much after 1.15am. It had been an exhilarating evening!


Saturday 10th August 2013   Ebac Northern League  k.o.:- 11.00am

Division I

Celtic Nation                                        1                    Bishop Auckland                        1

Jonathan Allan 87                                                       Craig Hodgson 24

referee:- Dean Chapman                                            attendance:- 409


Another ungodly hour on Saturday morning at 5.00am rising bleary eyed and catatonic and pouring myself into the car after a quick shower and shave for the journey to Derbyshire. There I met up with Chris, Craig and with Laurence who was doing the major part of the driving in his seasoned Toyota. Laurence enjoys driving and under his guidance, his trusty chariot ate up the miles with gusto and energy all the way to Carlisle in just about two and a half hours!


Celtic Nation (former name Gillford Park) have a pretty impressive stadium. It was, apparently, the former home of a Rugby League club of that name. There has been speculation in the national press recently about the club becoming a “mole” for Glasgow Celtic’s entry into the Premier League in England. They have certainly spent money on the stadium (though not on the approach or car parking!) and they have spent on players and recruited Mick Wadsworth, the former Blackburn Rovers defender and Carlisle United manager.


The main line from Euston to Scotland runs behind the impressive stand which overlooks the goal at one end and there was plenty of evidence of Virgin Trains (and Northern Trains) usage on the line during the match.


This was a match that Bishop Auckland really ought to have won. They went one up early on and could and really should have had more goals, so complete was their dominance. That they conceded a late equaliser was the fault of their own goalkeeper who was so busy arguing with the referee about the award of a corner to the home side that he was out of position when it was taken and could do nothing about Jonathan Allen’s close range effort for the equaliser. On this evidence, The Celtic “mole” will take longer to burrow than Scottish investor, Frank Lynch, may have anticipated!

Saturday 10th August 2013     Ebac Northern League   k.o.:- 3.00pm

Division 2

Whitehaven Amateurs                    2                     Chester-le-Street              1

Darren Donald 22, 65                                                  Andrew Grant-Soulsby 78

referee:- Roy Cousin                                                   attendance:- 208


I wish they had been playing in the stadium next door which was home to Whitehaven RL. That was a proper big, old fashioned stadium. Whitehaven Amateurs played on a pitch with a temporary stand with some seats in it and not a great deal more by way of protection from the elements! The club seemed not too impressed by their role in The Northern League ‘hop’. There was a small burger bar outside and well hidden away inside was a tea and pies counter, but no pointers to advertise it!


The tiny stand in front of Whitehaven RL’s large grandstand!

The game was a tense dour affair which should probably, on the balance of play, have ended in a draw. The difference between the two teams was Darren Donald the Amateurs number seven who scored both his sides goals and generally enjoyed the freedom of the right flank all afternoon.


Perhaps next time, we’ll come back and watch Whitehaven playing Rugby League at the real stadium next door!

Saturday 10th August 2013       Ebac Northern League     k.o.:- 7.00pm

Division I

Penrith                                             2                       Newton Aycliffe                      4

Steven Rigg 34,72                                                    Daniel Earl 19, 21

                                                                                     Jamie Owens 59, 86

referee:- Kevin Mulraine (Carlisle)                    attendance:- 380


This was the match which made the day after the first two rather disappointing encounters. Penrith, in their modern stadium on the outskirts of the town and at the far end of a huge sporting complex, must be the envy of many of their competitors. There is a fine stand which can accommodate upwards of five hundred people and smaller stands on the side opposite. The tea bar did such a roaring service that service was temporarily suspended whilst further supplies were sequestered. No doubt they made and deserved to make lots of money from the operation, but I did find that £1.50 for a cup of tea was a trifle extortionate!


They started the match brightly enough, but were soon undone by two quick goals in the first half hour. They huffed and they puffed for the rest of the match, playing catch up which never really seemed on the cards. Their opponents were clearly the more measured and better organised and deservedly strode away with a 4-2 victory!



Then, it was all down to Laurence, who guided his rocket propelled charabanc safely back down to Derbyshire and decanted us all to wend our own way home whist he hurtled onwards to Oxfordshire. I rolled in a tad more sedately around 1.00am!

It was a strange feeling to be semi-part of a hop! The usual crowds were there and a great deal of goodwill was dispensed by hoppers and organisers alike. Small things (like the late arrival of the programme packages – they didn’t arrive until halfway through the second match) jarred on the days consciousness and I was definitely not impressed by the tea bar prices at Penrith! Having said that, I enjoyed the day which would have benefitted from a little more thought at the planning and organisation stage!

Still, for all that, I await in eager anticipation, the second instalment on 26th October.

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