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South West Peninsula ‘Hop’ 2016

Around the fringes of the match

Spectators to this hectic patch

Younger sisters, older brothers

Tied-up dogs and irate mothers


A mother came to claim her twins

(Required to play those violins)

A little sister, Annabelle

Bribed with a lolly not to tell


Dogs named Rover, Rex or Roy

Each watching one particular boy.

A puppy mad keen to chase the ball

The older dogs had seen it all.


The match was played till after dark

(Till gates were closed on Albert Park)

By shadowy boys whose shapes dissolved

Into the earth as it revolved


Ghostly boys who flitted by

Like bats across the evening sky,

A final fling, a final call

Pursuing the invisible ball.

From “The Match (c 1950)” by Allan Ahlberg (1937 – )




Thursday 24th March 2016

Carlsberg South West Peninsula League Premier Division k.o.:- 7.45pm

AFC St Austell   4

Josh Grant 4, 59,

Liam Eddy 32,

Martin Watts 90+2, 

St Blazey   0

Referee:- Stuart Kane             Attendance:- 451

Admission:- £5.00                 Programme:- £1.00

It was a long train journey from Kettering to London St Pancras and then the cross city tube link to Paddington for the 12.06 GWR Penzance express which trundled into St Austell at around ten past four. So, it was a relief to find that my accommodation, The White Hart Hotel, was barely a couple of hundred yards down the hill from the station! I had been allocated a first floor room of gigantic proportions with a separate study and a bathroom you could comfortably train for the Olympic 100 metres in!


St Austell were the current champions of The Carlsberg South West Peninsula League, but this season, although lying in second place, they look unlikely to retain their crown. At present (before tonight’s match) they are equal on points with leaders, Bodmin Town, but they had played two games more, have an inferior goal difference and, crucially, Bodmin are unbeaten this season!


The rain came down in waves as we walked up the road and past the railway station to Poltair Park, home of the champions, which is set back behind a park and a play area off the main road. It was not so much ‘stair-rods’ as a fine mist of water that drenched you to the very marrow! The club-house at the ground was packed with ‘hoppers’, but the only place with cover during the match was the single stand situated adjacent to the club-house, and it was packed, but the view was challenging because of the over-proliferation of stantions and rails.

St Blazey, the cannon fodder this evening, occupy the nether regions of the premier division and were no match for the reigning champions. Four goals was about the measure and the difference in skill and ability between the two teams, but, the following day, Bodmin Town also won 4-0 – away from home!

The attendance was impressive, but it was not the highest of the season for the hosts, who posted a crowd of 606 last October for the visit of Bodmin Town. That was the highest crowd in the league this season and tonight’s attendance was the second highest!

Friday 25th March 2016  k.o.:- 11.00am

Carlsberg South West Peninsula League Division 1 West

Illogan RBL   3

Gavin Boon 43,

Joe Carlyon 64,

Steven Abbott-Smith  67,

Penryn Athletic   1

Dario Disano 57,

Referee:- George Pattison                Attendance:- 369

Admission:-  £3.00                          Programme:- £1.00

Friday was predicted to be the finest day of the weekend. Hurricane Katie seemed to be arriving late from the Carribean, but squally rain was forecast for Saturday. The weather – which was sunny and warm – helped, but Illogan’s Oxland Parc was a picture of rustic beauty with the monument clearly visible on the hill behind it – a memento, I was told, of past tin mining exploits.



The monument on the hill in the distance behind the ground




Illogan was founded off the back of The Royal British Legion shortly after the Great War and still keep ‘RBL’ in their name. There is a fine club house behind the goal at the entrance to the ground and quite a pleasant, small stand with seating for perhaps one hundred spectators down one side. On the far side of the ground and adjacent to the dug-outs (and a rather large puddle in the pathway) is a smaller more eccentric, quirkier stand with seating for about a dozen at most.




This was a match which pitted visitors, Penryn Athletic, third in the table and unbeaten in sixteen matches, against the hosts who lie five places off the foot of the division and with only one win in their last six league matches. The result defied the odds. After a shaky start when it seemed that the visitors might take control of the match, Illogan struck just before half-time and in the second half scored a further two goals to a single reply to  take the victory and the points on merit!

The crowd was 369 which was just over a hundred short of their TOTAL gate for the entire season and boosted their average match day attendance from 49 to 78.


Friday 25th March 2016 k.o.:- 3.00pm

Carlsberg South  West Peninsula League Division 1 West

Wendron United   1

Chris Mulroy 90+5

Porthleven   1

Matt Best 24,

Referee:- Kevin Knowles               Attendance:- 427

Admission:- £3.00                        Programme:- £1.00


Wendron United was a sight for sore eyes. It was a cricket club and football club on adjacent pitches, both sharing a club house. The football club had been making some substantial improvements, including a long stand along the length of one side of the ground. It was, as yet, incomplete – and may indeed have troubled the Health and Safety Inspectorate – but it was impressive.


Equally impressive was the sports area and upstairs board room behind the goal. Perhaps less necessary was the blare of almost non-stop music, interspersed with announcements from the double strength loudspeakers!


What started as a bright, sunny and generally warm afternoon, turned quite cold by the end of the match as a stiff breeze blew down the length of the stand. Inside the club house, it was only after negotiating the burger bar and curry/beef stew sector that winding your way into the next room you found a gorgeous cake stall. It was a pity I had fallen for the chicken curry and baked potato, but I did find room for a couple of slices of excellent gateau!


The two teams were not enjoying the most successful of seasons and Wendron were perched just above the mid point in the division, whilst visitors, Porthleven were but four places off the foot of the table. It was they who started the more brightly, taking the lead midway through the first half and holding it until the fifth minute of added time at the end of the game, when the hosts, somewhat fortuitously drew level and the spoils were shared.



Friday 25th March 2016 k.o.:- 7.00pm

Carlsberg South West Peninsula League Premier Division

Helston Athletic  1

Jason Roberts 70,

Falmouth Town  0

Referee:- Martyn Gospel                Attendance:- 514

Admission:- £3.00                        Programme:- F.O.C.



This was a Premier Division match and the hosts, newly promoted had spent a substantial amount to upgrade their stadium so that they could not only compete in the senior division, but also enter The FA Vase. It was an impressive stadium, even if the newly acquired stand was of the Meccano variety! The club had even invited the Helston Town band to play before the match and at half time. Despite the cold and blustery conditions, they gave a very creditable performance, which I thoroughly enjoyed!


The club house was pretty substantial, but it was swamped by the influx of hoppers. The bar was heaving and there were long queues at the food outlets. It was a cold evening with a sharp blustery wind (which didn’t help conditions for the contest). Programmes for the match were provided free by the club, despite the blandishments of the league committee. It was apparently a club policy, but hoppers were invited to contribute programme money (if they so wished) into a collection jar on the bar!


Tonight’s match was something of a local  ‘Derby’, with Helston separated from the coastal town of Falmouth by perhaps fifteen miles. Both teams occupied positions just above the mid-point in the table with Falmouth a point better off, but having played a game more.


Helston Town Band performing prior to kick-off.


The match was not ‘El Classico’! From the start, defences dominated and it look a nailed on 0-0 draw. It took a goal twenty minutes from time from the home side’s Jason Roberts to secure the win and the points, but perhaps a draw might have been a fairer outcome. The highest attendance of the ‘hop’ had been treated to, arguably, the least entertaining encounter of the weekend. Nonetheless we had been impressed with the endeavours of the home club to ensure an enjoyable visit and so it turned out!



Saturday 26th March 2016  k.o.:- 10.30am

Carlsberg South West Peninsula League Division 1 West

Sticker     6

Sam Kenny  9, 24, 33,

Liam Dingle  16,

Mike Body  37, 73,

Wadebridge Town   1

Tom Marks 71,

Referee:- Simon Long             Attendance:- 372

Admission:- £3.00                 Programme:- £1.00

The weather turned with a vengeance, today. We had been expecting it but, perhaps not the intensity of it! At Sticker, the rain was an unremitting damp drizzle, which, combined with the cold and the win served to dampen spirits and called for a rousing match to boost flagging spirits. That is just what we got!


Yes, there really is a place in Cornwall called ‘Sticker’! 



There was no seating at Sticker, but cover was provided down one side and also under the eaves of the club-house. Sticker is a tiny village not far from St Austell. The welcome was friendly, but the weather was vile!



Les Bull (Le Boeuf) from Pinner, North London, in the club-house before the match at Sticker


This remarkable match commenced with a goal after only nine minutes followed by four more first half goals to the hosts, Sticker, who sit handsomely in fourth place in the table, without actually having the potential to attempt either the championship or promotion. Their visitors, Wadebridge Town, meanwhile, maintain a lowly third from bottom place without really being threatened by relegation. To be fair, the wind was blowing in the home side’s favour in the first half, but even so, they were good value for a 5-0 lead! After half-time, the visitors – abetted by the wind – stiffened their sinews and fought with greater tenacity, even pulling a goal back after 71 minutes. Sticker responded with a sixth goal just two minutes later and then rolled out the substitutes and the game was effectively over.

The ‘gate’ of 372 was more than five times Sticker’s average attendance of  65  this season!



Saturday 26th March 2016 k.o.:- 1.15pm

Carlsberg South West Peninsula League Division 1 West

St Dennis       6

Martin Sleeman  4,

Scott Brown  8,

Mikey Davies 46, 53,

Lee Rickard 71, 85,

Kyle Friendship s/o 35,

Millbrook         4

Shaun Evans  19, 68,

Sam Chitey  34, 45,

Referee:- Ryan Cornelius           Attendance:- 306

Admission:- £3.00                    Programme:- £1.00

If anything, the weather worsened during the comparatively short journey from Sticker to St Dennis.. By the time we got there, stair rods had replaced a heavy drizzle. Sadly for the embattled hoppers, the major food outlet was outside in the rain with no cover! There was a covered standing area down one side of the pitch but this offered scant protection as the rain was blowing in from both sides. Behind the goal and adjacent to the club house was another small covered area, but this, too, was susceptible to the gusting rain!


The pitch was a quagmire and there were rumours abounding that the referee was considering a postponement. Fortunately, he took the pragmatic option and the match went ahead and the pitch played well considering the amount of precipitation dumped upon it!


The pitch side covered area which offered scant protection from the elements!


St Dennis are placed fifth in the division, but poor Millbrook are but one place off the foot of the table. Two goals from the home side in the first eight minutes had the hoppers wondering just how big might be the scoreline. Six? Eight? Ten? Not a bit of it. Another half hour went by and the visitors had not only drawn level but watched in bemused abstraction as the hosts had Kyle Friendship sent off, apparently for something he said to the referee which that official decided was not spoken in friendship. On the stroke of half-time, the visitors even took the lead and many hoppers were considering a very unlikely away victory!



There were two goals in the first eight minutes of the second half and once again it was the hosts who scored them to regain the lead. Back came Millbrook to equalise and the game rocked back and forth in the appalling conditions. Eventually, the hosts scored two final goals to see off their gallant rivals, but I would like to add a word of praise for both sets of players who contributed magnificently to the entertainment and to referee, Ryan Cornelius, whose courageous decision to go ahead with the match was vindicated. The pitch played well and we all enjoyed the best match of the ‘hop’.



Saturday 26th March 2016  k.o.:- 4.30pm

Carlsberg South West Peninsula League Division 1 West

Bude Town    5

Billy Hopcroft  6, 45+1,

Tommy Statton 27,

Chris Hill 54,

Luke Potter 82,

Holsworthy     1

Nathan Bonny 79,

Carlo Chandler s/o 36,

Referee:- Cameron Mann         Attendance:- 409

Admission:- £3.00                Programme:- £0.50

Onward, ever onward and suddenly it was the last match of the ‘hop’. These events are always so long in the anticipation and so exquisitely short in the execution. Bude town was some forty miles from St Dennis, way up on the north coast of Cornwall. It was still raining when we got there but it drifted away as the match progressed and was replaced by a watery sunlight!



Broadclose Park, home of Bude Town and hidden away behind a housing estate, is a somewhat eccentric little ground with a limited club house and, equally limited cover in front of it and down one side of the pitch. There is a small covered area in the corner at the entrance to the ground, but otherwise, the pitch is surrounded on three sides by rolling downs and away behind the goal to the right was what looked like giant listening dishes set in the hillside above the sea. It immediately brought to mind Goonhilly Downs, but I have a feeling that that is nearer to Lands End.


These two clubs are pulling up no trees this season. One point separates them at the wrong end of the table, but the hosts have played no less than five fewer games than their rivals. Neither side is in any danger of relegation and this match was all about pride. I was standing beside two supporters from Holsworthy who were somewhat mystified by the huge turnout, and, indeed, quite mystified as to what a ‘hop’ was and why they should be involved in it!


Bude were much too strong for their opponents and even before the visitors had Carlo Chandler sent off, they had already amassed a two goal lead and added a further goal right on the half-time whistle. Another goal early in the second half had many hoppers wondering what the odds were on the three home sides today all scoring six goals! That was not to be. Holsworthy pulled one back with twenty minutes remaining, but it was Bude who had the last laugh with the final goal of the ‘hop’ after eighty-two minutes.


The tiny stand in the corner of the ground


Black clouds rolling over the covered area outside the clubhouse


Watery sunshine over Broadclose Park

…………….And that was it! There was a long coach journey back to St Austell and on the following morning, frustratingly, the train was first of all five, then nine and finally thirteen minutes late. A retired railman and now full time hopper, suggested that one of the train crew had forgotten that the clocks went forward last night and had overslept! A further delay was encountered near Newbury, but then, amazingly, the train arrived ON TIME at Paddington!

This was my fourth South West Peninsula League ‘hop’, following visits in 2009, 2010 and the last time in 2011. I hope that it won’t be the last. In total, I have visited twenty-eight South West Peninsula League grounds (although some, like Clyst Rovers, are no more and others like Okehampton Argyle may soon slip away). Who can forget that gigantic struggle of a local derby in 2010 when in the midst of rain and wind and MUD, Godolphin Atlantic defeated local rivals Newquay by 5-3 or Buckland Athletic’s magnificent stadium, set on the hill, but a devil of a place to park! Godolphin Atlantic’s 527 is still the largest attendance on the ‘hops’ I went to!

Finally, I would like to say a word of thanks to Phil Hiscox, the secretary of The South West Peninsula League, who organised and arranged this ‘hop’. I think he did a magnificent job – weather notwithstanding – and the way the clubs involved, enthusiastically bought into his dream made it such an excellent experience for us hoppers!

Looking forward to the next time!!!

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