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Robin Hood Hop

No, the bugle sounds no more,

And the twanging bow no more;

Silent is the ivory shrill

Past the heath and up the hill;

There is no mid-forest laugh,

Where lone Echo gives the half

To some wight, amaz’d to hear

Jesting, deep in forest drear.

From “Robin Hood” by John Keats (1795-1821)




Monday 7th April 2014 Calor Southern League k.o.:- 7.45pm

Premier Division

Hitchin Town                                                      0

Garry Jones s/o 24

Hungerford Town                                               2

Matt Day 30,

Stefan Brown 65,

Referee:- G. Nowak                                     Attendance:- 235

Hitchin Town F.C. badge

It was hard to believe that this was my first visit to Top Field in exactly one year (8th April 2013: Evo-Stik Southern League Premier: Hitchin Town 1 Bedworth United 1 attendance:- 243). This season, St Albans City have taken to playing their mid-week matches on a Monday evening, and the ease of catching a train from Bedford to St Albans has beguiled me away from The Canaries, but I was glad to return this evening. DSCN3472

It was raining heavily as I sped down the A1 to Hitchin and the downpour hardly relented throughout the entire match. There was a new 60mph section just past Buckden with variable speed cameras, but it wasn’t until the third camera that I realised and amended my speed. I’ll let you know whether I have collected yet another three points on my licence! I had left it rather late, confident in the knowledge that team sheets were always available (20p) and so it proved to be, and before the match I enjoyed a pint of the excellent ‘Doombar’ in the club bar as I jotted the names down.


In my usual seat in the main stand, along with the same old buffers who regularly congregate there, I re-acquainted myself with the realisation that they could pinpoint with total accuracy match events from fifty years ago, but would be hard pressed to name the home scorer if he came by to shake their hand!


Top Field is a magnificent, traditional old stadium with wooden terracing behind the near goal (see above). It has the feel of an old glove regularly pulled on and you could easily dream of being transported back to nineteen fourteen – or earlier – from the appearance, look and feel of the stadium.

Controversy flared early on in this match and probably influenced the outcome of the contest. In the twenty fourth minute, on the advice of the linesman, the home number eight, Garry Jones, was sent off for an alleged head-butt . Two players had been involved in the hearty and physical recriminations which followed a heavy tackle in midfield and the away player had certainly contributed as significantly as the home man in the clash.

Not long afterwards, a rather fortuitous header from a corner found its way into the Canaries net via the foot of a post and try as they might, there was no way back for the hosts. Hungerford added a second after the hour mark and could have added more. They collected the victory and the points, but Hitchin can rightly feel aggrieved at the injustice they suffered which probably cost them any chance of victory.


Tuesday 8th April 2014  North-West Counties League  k.o.:- 7.45pm

Division 1

Hanley Town                                                            2

Jamie Turner 44,

Josh Thorpe 65,

Northwich Flixton Villa                                            1

Osman Omar 48 (pen),

Referee:- Andrew Worthington                   Attendance:- 69


“A Dump” is how Graeme, enjoying himself on a school adventure trip in South Wales, described The Abbey Lane Ground in Bucknall in Stoke-on-Trent. He can’t have been to the stadium for some time! It did have the appearance of being built on waste land on the outskirts of a housing estate and it was surrounded by an eight foot steel fence to deter vandals, who were suitably warned as to their nefarious intentions, but, once inside, the ground had quite a neat and spruce appearance. There was a small covered, terraced area on the half way line on the far side and a metal stand which seated perhaps one hundred and twenty spectators on the near side. The club house and bar looked pretty recent and European football was on the large screen (Chelsea 2 PSG 0).


Chris and I had made the relatively comfortable journey from Derbyshire and arrived well ahead of the away team, some of whom only turned up just prior to the official kick-off time. There was a delay of ten minutes in starting the match and the visitors only had one substitute.


We weren’t the only ‘hoppers’ there amongst a fairly thin crowd on a reasonably pleasant evening. I did manage to get the line up for the away team, when they eventually arrived, but they only had enough players for one substitute. The club, Northwich Flixton Villa, was only formed as recently as 2005 and links were made with Northwich Victoria for them to act as a feeder club. With three Northwich clubs spread around the leagues these days, following the spectacular implosion of Northwich Victoria, it is difficult to sort out the line of descent!




Hanley Town have opened a new stand in memory of the manager who led them to promotion before he died last May (see above and below photos). Hanley Town have named the new stand – part of a £25,000 development to meet grading requirements – The Colin Stair Stand.

On the night, poor old Northwich Flixton Villa ought to have been beaten out of sight! Their hosts lie in fourth place in the table whilst Villa are rock bottom. In the event, the visitors played well above themselves for much of the match  and, certainly in the first half, it was difficult to judge which side was bottom of the league! Just before half-time, Hanley sneaked in front, but a penalty immediately after the break, saw Villa draw level and it was a 65th minute strike which saved the home side’s blushes and gave them a victory they only just about deserved!


Wednesday 9th April 2014 Thurlow Nunn Eastern Counties League  k.o.:- 7.45pm

Division 1

Haverhill Borough                                               5

Ben Bradley 4, 8,

? Salmons 41,

Ryan Weaver 43,

Joe Boreham 69,

March Town United                                         1

Sean White 23,

Referee:- C. Horsman                              Attendance:- 90


I can only think that Haverhill Borough’s motto is a bastardisation of the famous Queens Park FC motto: “Ludere Causa Ludendi” which translates “To play for the sake of playing”. The club have, apparently only been in existence for a couple of seasons, in each of which they were promoted, first to The Essex & Suffolk Border League Premier Division (as champions) and then into the Eastern Counties League (as runners up). All this was achieved under their former name of Haverhill Sports Association and coincided with the opening of The New Croft facility, where Haverhill Rovers also play.


New Croft is a pretty impressive facility, despite the fact that it only has one (seated) stand for around 100 spectators and very little else in the way of spectator cover, although there is a small, terraced, Meccano affair behind one goal. They have a lovely bar and wide ranging food outlet and, adjacent to the players’ changing rooms, there is a boardroom where helpful directors respond to all questions about team news and attendances! Today’s match was free to spectators thanks to the sponsorship of The Haverhill Sports Association who administer the facility and a crowd of 90 turned up which was a considerable improvement on the season’s average so far, of 66.

Borough lie in fifth place in Division 1 of The Eastern Counties League, but, despite tonight’s performance, they are unlikely to achieve a third consecutive promotion! They obviously haven’t given up just yet! This evening, they smote five past a struggling March Town United and it should have been a great many more!



 Thursday 10th April 2014 Precision Nottinghamshire Senior League  k.o.:- 6.15pm

Senior Division

Beeston AFC                                                            4

Alex Ford 27 (pen), 5o (pen) 59, 64,

FC Cavaliers                                                            4

Wesley Burke 25 (pen), 37 (pen), 

Sylla Aboubacar 58,

Marcus Williams77,

Referee:- Phil Towers                                   Attendance:- 26

Nottinghamshire Senior League
Nottinghamshire Senior League



Beeston is a stop on The East Midlands Train Service, just before Nottingham. I should have taken the train today for the car journey was another of those horrific affairs with heavy congestion on The M1 and hold-ups on other roads including the closure of The A46 at Queniborough and the extension of the Nottingham Tramline service. Fortunately, Chris was also going to the match and he ensured that I had both programme and team news when I arrived a scant two minutes before kick-off!

The match hardly got going for nearly half an hour and then three penalties were awarded and the visitors took a narrow half-time lead. There was a fairly thin attendance, and probably 20% of those were ‘hoppers’. The game, however, was well worth the journey, as, shortly after half time, the home team drew level with – yes, you’ve guessed it – another penalty!

Cavaliers took the lead again, but were pegged back within a minute and then, at last, the home team got their noses in front with twenty minutes to go. They couldn’t hang on, however, as a final goal, eight minutes from time, ensured that the honours were shared.


Friday 11th April 2014 Precision Nottinghamshire Senior League  k.o.:- 7.45pm

Senior Division

Cotgrave                                                                        4

Lewis Dobbins 54,

Kyle Waddell 56,

Jamie Kirkby 64, 90+2,

Burton Joyce                                                                 2

Roman Easom 40, 75,

Referee:- Stephen Sears                                  Attendance:- 311


This was, officially, the first match of The Precision Nottinghamshire Senior League ‘hop’ organised by Rob Hornby. I’d booked a room in The Park hotel on a quiet tramway into Nottingham city centre and driven to the match with plenty of time to spare, only to find the ground already heaving with hoppers!


Cotgrave is a village some six or seven miles outside of Nottingham. They have floodlights which, I found, was not uncommon amongst teams in this league. That was the reason for the 7.45pm kick-off. Behind the ground, the pub had been cordoned off to provide a bar area for supporters, but I didn’t see very many of them taking advantage of the opportunity! The snack bar did a roaring trade and the weather held off, although it was decidedly cool!


My sister, Mary, by text from Lancashire, was vociferously supporting the visitors, Burton Joyce. She was a student in the late seventies at a teacher training facility in Keyworth and enjoyed a very successful teaching practice in Burton Joyce whilst she was at college. She was extremely pleased at half-time with the visitors in the lead, but in the second half, they were never really in the hunt as the home side, seventeen points better off in the league and with three games in hand, powered in four goals to one in reply from the visitors and ran out deserved 4-2 victors.

After the match, my car was full, as I took some of the ‘hoppers’ back to their hotel in the centre of Nottingham, before finally repairing to my quiet bolt hole on Waverley Street and a selection of malt whisky’s at a local hostelry!


Saturday 12th April 2014 Precision Nottinghamshire Senior League  k.o.:- 10.10am

Senior Division

Wollaton                                                                    3

Jordan Alls 24, 54,

Chris Atkins 46,

Beeston AFC                                                             0

Referee:- Craig Ford                                   Attendance:- 282


I parked my car in the multi-storey car park at Nottingham Railway Station for a very reasonable £4.00 for the day and joined another fifty-odd hoppers waiting to board the coach for today’s matches. It was quite a chilly morning and I had been back to the car twice to reconsider appropriate clothing. In the end, I took account of the weather forecast on the early morning TV which said that after a dull start, the day would become warmer with increasing sunshine. I left behind my hat and scarf and only took a lightweight coat. That was a bad mistake!


We passed Wollaton Hall on the way, a fine baroque building standing on a small hill. It must have been mighty impressive when it was built. Wollaton has the feel of a self-contained village almost within the city of Nottingham. The ground is on land owned by The Wollaton Sports Association and is shared with the cricket club. The land was acquired shortly after the Second World War and Wollaton FC were formed in 1954.


Wollaton lie in 4th place in the league and their opponents today were Beeston, whom I’d seen as recently as Thursday on their own ground. They, presently, lie seventh in the league, but three weeks ago, in the reverse fixture, they had defeated Wollaton by 4-2.


This was a good game between two evenly matched sides, although Alex Ford, who had scored all four goals for Beeston on Thursday, had an off day in this contest and was substituted after seventy-five minutes. Wollaton were the sharper in attack and scored three goals, one midway through the first half followed by a further two goals just after half-time. They were good value for their convincing victory.


Saturday 12th April 2014 Precision Nottinghamshire Senior League  k.o.:- 12.50pm

Senior Division

Ruddington Village                                                0

Boots Athletic                                                        1

Anton Bonnick 58,

Referee:- Dave Baxter                                   Attendance:- 319



The village of Ruddington is about ten miles outside of Nottingham on the Loughborough road. Elms Park is clearly visible from The A60 as you drive through the village. By the time we got there, the place was heaving. Baked potatoes with a variety of fillings were on offer and there was a queue for the team sheets at 20p – or, at least they were on offer until It was my turn to buy one and they had just run out! Fortunately, the went and did another print run!


Elms Park, home of Ruddington Village FC is a spacious, well laid out and beautifully maintained arena. It has the feel of a park with a football ground in the middle and extensive facilities behind one goal for changing rooms and social activities.


Mike, appropriately accoutred to deal with the weather and earnestly attending the action in today’s match with a natty little line in seating!


Boots Athletic, appropriately known as “The Chemists” have a long and proud tradition. They can trace their history back to 1894 and for a hundred years or so, they played their football in the shadow of The City Ground at Lady Bay. They lost their ground in 2005 and have been wanderers ever since. They and their hosts, Ruddington Village are locked in mid-table with the hosts being one place and four points better off, but their opponents do have two games in hand!


Despite the paucity of goals, this was a pretty good match. Play ebbed and flowed, although few chances were created and even fewer were on target. When a home player, through on goal in the first half, deftly placed the ball beyond the keeper, but smack onto the far post, it seemed that this tie really had ‘0-0 written all over it’.

Boots broke the deadlock just before the hour mark, when their ‘fridge’ proportioned striker scored the only goal of the contest. It was, perhaps, a little harsh on Ruddington, but now only one point separates them in the league!


Saturday 12th April 2014 Precision Nottinghamshire Senior League  k.o.:- 3.40pm

Senior Division

Keyworth United                                                       3

Ben Clarke 4, 51, 

John Crawley 35,

Sandhurst                                                                 2

Cliff Clarke 8,

Adam Bradford 49,

Dan Abbott s/o 37

Referee:- Mike McGill                                   Attendance:- 372


As you come into Keyworth off The A52 and along Platt  Lane, the road dips under a railway bridge and it must still be in use, because there are overhead wires for electric trains. ‘Do not be fooled’, Laurence cautioned, “this railway will not be found on any Ordnance Survey map.” Apparently, this particular length of track is a test bed for Bombardier of Derby who are train and rolling stock manufacturers and test their output on this very stretch of rail track (see second photo down).


This was another club with floodlights and a wealth of sporting facilities.  I counted at least half a dozen football pitches and a further three or four junior pitches. The club can trace its history back to 1875, making them one of the oldest clubs in the county. Sandhurst, their opponents, on the other hand have barely been in existence for twenty years!



These two clubs are in relegation trouble at the bottom of The Senior Division. Keyworth in fourth bottom place are but one point better off than second bottom Sandhurst. The game was truly awful, a shambles of a match. It was not helped by a strong cold breeze and Sandhurst were further handicapped when they had Dan Abbott sent off in the 37th minute for two bookable offences.

By then, the score was already 2-1 after both sides had opened their accounts in the first ten minutes and Keyworth had taken the lead after 35 minutes. Miraculously, Sandhurst drew level shortly after half-time. Two minutes later, however, they conceded a further goal and with it the game as a match littered with mistakes and ineptitude meandered to a close.


Saturday 12th April 2014 Precision Nottinghamshire Senior League  k.o.:-6.30pm

1st Division

West Bridgford                                                     2

Jurgen Charlesworth 10, 76,

Bingham Town                                                    1

Nicholas Gammon 19,

Referee:- Ken Deighton                               Attendance:- 448


The last game of the day and of the ‘hop’ was also, arguably, the best game. There was plenty at stake with both teams vying for promotion from the 1st Division. The weather, if anything had got even colder and I was thankful for a hat purchased by Chris, to keep my ears warm (at last). Late in the game, to add to the weather miseries, it began to rain quite heavily!

There wasn’t much point in buying the team sheet on offer at 20p, because, just before kick-off, a completely different line up was posted on a board next to the club entrance!


The club had excelled themselves in the catering department. A variety of pies – with or without mushy peas – was on offer and in addition, there was a selection of real ale from The Navigation Brewery. It would have been churlish to have turned down such an opportunity, so I enjoyed a pint of the golden nectar!


Tonight’s visitors, Bingham Town, came into existence some sixty years ago, but it wasn’t until an enormous grant of £1 million in 2009 enabled them to substantially upgrade their facilities (sorry about the split infinitive) and the first team applied for and were accepted into The Nottinghamshire Senior League.

By comparison, the hosts, West Bridgford, are relative fledglings, having been formed in 1990 as a colts side. Indeed, it wasn’t until three years after their move to Regatta Way in 2008, that a senior side was formed to provide continuity for players from their junior sides. This side joined the Nottinghamshire Senior League in 2011/12.

It was a dour war of attrition between two sides who would have made mincemeat of the combined efforts of Keyworth and Sandhurst in the previous match. It was a pity in a way that one side had to lose . After exchanging goals in the first twenty minutes, the winner was turned in with fifteen minutes remaining, by Jurgen Charlesworth for the home side. They collected the points from a very narrow victory in front of the largest crowd of the ‘hop’.


On the way home, just outside Tilton-on-the-Hill, a muntjac suddenly loitered into the middle of the road and despite my best efforts, I struck the beast with the near side front of my car. I don’t think a great deal; of damage has been done, except perhaps, scuffed paintwork. As for the muntjac, well, as usual, it just disappeared! I’ve only had this car for a year and that is the second time now, on the way back from football matches, that I have been attacked by muntjacs!

Rob Hornby, the hop organiser, excelled himself once again and I am already looking forward to next years event! An enormous amount of work goes into the organisation and choreography of an event such as this and frequently we simple hoppers fail to show our appreciation for the logistical efforts and tireless determination of our organiser who, on this occasion, also raised £338.11 in charity donations from raffles and a stall on the ‘hop’. Well done , Rob.

As for the variable speed cameras on The A1 last Monday, I have heard nothing yet! Fingers crossed!

Matches this season:- 189   New grounds this season:-  131

Matches this year:- 71      New grounds this year:- 45

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