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Fanfare for The New Season

The Grey Boys
Oh Mother may I go to play
With the grey boys in the street
For I hear the thud of booted ball
And the clattering of feet


My window overlooks the street
The street lamps light the game
The boys are mad to kick the ball
And I feel just the same


A yellow haze hangs round the lamps
Under the smoky sky
And up and down the clattery street
The shadowy boys go by
Oh Mother may I join the game
With the grey boys of the town
For I feel much better than I did
And my temperature is down

by Allan Ahlberg (1944 – )





Friday 31st July 2015

United Counties League Premier Division  k.o.:- 7.45pm

Harborough Town                             1

Danny Wright 2,

Yaxley                                                3

Dan Cotton 9, 83,

Scott Carter 49,

Referee:- Mark Wetherall               Attendance:- 313


Having spent a week away with The English School Cricket Association for The Bunbury U-15 Festival in the idyllic surrounds of Malvern College, it was a quick turnaround at home and straight off for the first match in The Rutland League Groundhop. In fact only TWO of the matches were actually played in Rutland – those at Oakham United and Ketton – the rest of them were played out in that cockpit of territory that also comprises Northants, Lincs and Leicestershire.


Harborough Town are relatively new to The United Counties League, having previously plied their trade in The Northants Combination. The three sided ground is Spartan, but it does have an extensive club house and very friendly and welcoming staff! They escaped relegation from The Premier Division last season on a technicality and on tonight’s showing, they will struggle again, this season.


Saturday 1st August 2013

Peterborough & District League Premier Division  k.o.:- 10.45am

Ketton                                                2

Ben Waldron 33,

Alex Brockbank 83 (pen),

Netherton United                              2

Steve Mastin 7,

Dwayne Rankin 66,

Referee:- Chris Day                   Attendance:- 284


Above, Laurel House at Moulton College where we stayed for two nights during the ‘hop’. The rooms were airy and comfortable and the breakfasts were excellent. Perhaps you needed to be pretty fit for the trip to the nearest hostelry (The Telegraph), but apart from that, it was a great location!


The first match of the new day – and the new month – was at Pit Lane in Ketton. I had last been here on Wednesday 22nd April when the home side had earned promotion from a hard fought, 3-1 victory against Ryhall. The attendance that evening had been 72, which was pretty good for this level of football. This was Ketton’s first foray into the upper echelon of the league and they are determined to make the most of it!


Before the match, ‘hoppers’ gather round the whiteboard for team information!


Graeme, in contemplative mood, cogitating, after claiming that I had vandalised his chair! It was an accident!

Honest injun!


For their first match in the top flight, Ketton produced their first programme and first match day ticket


The ground has steep grassy embankments on two sides and is not too far from the cricket pitch where, many moons ago I used to play when Benefield visited. It had a rock hard wicket and a short boundary and fielding could be a nightmare when the missile was dispatched with all the velocity of a small cannon ball! The Cement Works dominates the skyline, but not so noticeable is the giant quarry, which provides most of the raw material for the works. It must be over one hundred and fifty feet deep and more than half a mile across, and the ground – Pit Lane –  is named after it. Above – a half-time team talk for the visitors on the grassy embankment.


The Ketton Cement Works dominates the skyline


Saturday 1st August 2015

United Counties League Division 1 k.o.:- 1.45pm

Blackstones                                        1

Dan Evans 65 (pen),

Rushden & Higham                            1

Aaron Cormack 30,

Referee:- Adrian Walker             Attendance:- 327


Edward Blackstone was born in 1837 and went into business producing farming equipment. By the 1890s, he was producing diesel engines. a century later, Mirrlees Blackstone FC were playing at Lincoln Road, but the company was taken over and production moved elsewhere. The site of the former engineering works is now the local retail park!


It was a fine sunny day with a large crowd (not quite as large, I remember, as the balmy evening in October 1991 when 350 turned up for an FA Cup 2nd Qualifying Round replay against Heybridge Swifts!). Blackstones have fallen on hard times of late, but none so hard as the 11-1 home league defeat to Long Buckby in April 2012! Only 65 were present on that occasion! They now ply their trade in Division 1 of The United Counties League after so many years as Premier division stalwarts!


The ground is best viewed when visited in late Autumn for a midweek evening match, when ‘the moon is a ghostly galleon tossed upon stormy seas’ and the tall trees on either side of the ground shimmer in its fitful glow.


The houses at the far end of the ground threatened at one stage to engulf the stadium, but planning battles and a long term loan seem to have secured the future of the club.


For today’s match, the hosts were somewhat fortuitous. They were the inferior side and looked increasingly unlikely to retrieve the single goal advantage that the visitors achieved in the first half. That is until the referee handed them a golden opportunity in the sixty-fifth minute by way of a soft penalty and that crumb was snapped up by Dan Evans who rescued an undeserved point for his team!


Blackstones in their traditional green colours defend the far goal 



Jack with his Box Brownie concentrates on his prey. Graeme looks on!


Saturday 1st August 2015

Peterborough & District League Division 1  k.o.:- 4.30pm

Stamford Belvedere                          1

Jamie Saddington 42 (pen),

Wittering                                            3

Ashley Middleton 17,

Ross Lockwood, 22,

Joshua Watson 72,

Referee:- Tom Beeton                 Attendance:- 314


Stamford Belles! Do you know, when I first heard the name, I thought that they were a women’s team! Now, I know different. It was a blazing hot afternoon and there was little respite from the overhead glare!


Eddie and John behind the near goal posing for Katie who was collecting snaps of ‘hoppers’, both bad and good (the hoppers, that is, not the snaps)!


Probably the first and possibly the last programme Belvedere will ever produce – certainly not one so glossy!


Ian, Laurence and Graeme gaze intently at the action!


This was Belvedere’s first foray into The Peterborough & District League Division 1 and Wittering, their opponents were languishing in Division 3 but a couple of seasons ago! However, it was the visitors who seized total control of the match from the seventeenth minute when they opened the scoring. Belvedere looked to be chasing shadows, although they did pull one back just before half time when a goal bound header was wafted off the line by a Wittering arm and the subsequent penalty was rammed into the net by Jamie Saddington. The victory was confirmed, however, in the seventy-second minute with the third and final nail in Belles coffin!


Saturday 1st August 2015

United Counties League Division 1 k.o.:- 7.45pm

Oakham United                               5

Daniel Jenkins 40,

Richard Nelson 58,

Eddie McDonald 65,

Lewis Leckie 89,

Stewart Lambie 90+1

Buckingham Town                         2

Scott Weymouth 2,

Dan Deiderfield 77 mins

Scott Weymout s/o 82 mins – second bookable offence.

Referee:- Martin Reed                      Attendance:- 341


Kim Il Berezai, Our Dear Leader, resplendent in Oakham United and Rutland Groundhop T-Shirt


The biggest crowd of the ‘hop’ gathered at Barleythorpe for Oakham United’s first ever game in The United Counties League, following their promotion from The Peterborough & District Leafue last season. The welcome was warm, the food was good and efficiently delivered and the bar was busy as The home team sought to make the most from their opportunity.


It was on the field, however, where they were most anxious to make their mark and when they went a goal behind after two minutes to a lively Buckingham Town, it seemed that they had lost favour with the gods! They huffed and puffed for the rest of the half and eventually just managed to claw themselves level some five minutes from half-time.

The second half was a different story. A rejuvenated United tore into Buckingham like terriers and scored four second half goals, two of which came before the 77th minute sending off of Dan Deiderfield for a second bookable offence. Oakham United had arrived in The United Counties League in style!

Not so their ground, however, which I found hard to believe had been accepted as a step six location. The match can only be viewed from two sides of the pitch and the small wooden covered area has no seats. There are at least a couple of grounds in The UCL where viewing is only possible on three sides of the pitch (S&L Corby and Harborough Town spring to mind) and although the crowd of around 350 was accommodated quite comfortably, it might have been a bit different in a rainstorm!


Sunday 2nd August 2015

United Counties League Division 1 k.o.:- 10.45am

Thrapston Town                                   4

Jed Whiteman 19,

Ben Morgan 28,

Charlie Parkin 34,

Chris Hope 46,

St Neots Saints                                    1

Terrence Ageymang 87,

Kelvin Osei-Adoo missed penalty 49,


‘Oppido Servire’ – roughly translating as ‘To Serve The Town’


Thrapston Town (formerly Thrapston Ventura) is one of those small clubs in small towns which are run on the good will of a very limited band of dedicated supporters. They have the foresight to play some of their games on a Friday evening which will always draw the uncommitted and local derbies with the likes of Raunds Town frequently bring in crowds in excess of 150.


John strides purposefully around the edge of the pitch at Chancery Lane


Jeremy Biggs, United Counties League stalwart


Jack and Mike at the rear and Simon in front!


Thrapston Town recently spent a couple of seasons in The Premier Division of The United Counties League, but I have long regarded them as a fixture in Division 1.


The ground is shared with Thrapston Cricket Club and, during the summer, the metal rail along the side of the pitch is removed to allow for cricket matches to be played. I never actually played cricket there, but two of my sons, James and Mike both did.


There is a new changing room facility – maybe five years old – which also houses a tea hut during the football season


Thrapston were in total control of this match from the kick off and the only surprise is that they didn’t score more goals! St Neots Saints, the visitors, contrived to miss a penalty just after half time but did manage a consolation goal some three minutes from the end. Plenty of food for thought for Lydia Bedford, the St Neots Saints manager (see below), who is purported to be the most highly placed female manageress in the football pyramid!



Sunday 2nd August 2015

Peterborough & District League Division 1  k.o.:- 2.00pm

Oundle Town                                       3

Johnny Hipwell 3 (pen),

Conor Murphy 45,

Chris Kaye 77,

Baston                                                  4

Scott Spearink 31,

Dan Pick 48,

Troy Waters 58, 90 (pen)

Referee:- Shaun Gray                       Attendance:- 321


I have lived in Northamptonshire – indeed, within fifteen miles of Oundle – for the past thirty odd years and never seen a match there! That has now been rectified!


It was like a carnival day at the ground and there was even ‘groundhopper’ ale to be purchased. Below, Kate Hudson, the cordon blue chef who produced the excellent curry (nearly blew the top of my head off!), is obviously very pleased with the success of the event and her own burgeoning part in it. Well Done, Kate!


Kate Hudson hugs Eddie!


Mike at peace at pitch side before the contest


Waitrose have parked a supermarket behind the pitch!

This was a match that ebbed and flowed and the spoils eventually went to the more deserving team, but only after the conversion of a penalty deep into added time for the Baston winner!



Sunday 2nd August 2015

Peterborough & District League Division 1  k.o.:- 5.00pm

Kings Cliffe United                             0

Stamford Lions                                   1

Sean Kelly 84,

Referee:- Martin Reed               Attendance:- 296


We didn’t expect to see a parachute display at the final game, but that is what we got when six parachutists landed on the pitch and the more accurate of them managed to land in the centre circle!


There were even prizes of a bottle of champagne for those lucky few who had bought a disc which was landed on or nearest to a floating parachutist!


One flyer, however, found himself in the ditch which fell away behind the goal on the right


There was a hog roast, a bouncy castle and a military style bar under khaki canvas as well as a variety of food, AND it was very hot and for the first time on this weekend, I had to get myself a hat from the car to protect my reddening pate!


The ground is less than ten years old, having been built as a sports complex by the East Northants Council. The football pitch  is a flat area with a rising slope across the pitch and a falling slope behind it. The club house is built into the falling slope and the dressing rooms are downstairs, below the level of the pitch whilst the club house and refreshments are pitch side!


Stamford Lions, the visitors took the points and the victory in a match of very few chances. As in my only previous visit, I felt that there was an unusually high bounce on the pitch making control difficult and making the defender’s life so much easier as the forwards struggled to keep control of the ball!


Martin finds a piece of shade – he was one of the winners of a parachute bottle of champagne!

This was another of those ‘blurs’ that constitute a hop. The weekend flew past as the games came thick and fast and even though I had been to most of the grounds, I am not one of those hoppers for whom a new venue is my raison d’être. It was a brilliantly organised event. The weather was wonderful ….. well, maybe Chris didn’t actually organise that …. the accommodation at Moulton College was excellent value for money – and the walk to the pub kept us all fit! I’m already looking forward to next year!

This Season:-          Matches:-  18                      New Grounds:-   11

Total:-                      Matches:-  3,225                New Grounds:-  1,110

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