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Saturday 20th September 2014 ko 16.00

North Berkshire League Division Two

MARCHAM 1 (Armstrong 82)

EAST HENDRED AFC 7 (Moss 18 29p Sutton 26 Hummel 32 Doig 42 Wise 56 Hicks 86)

Att 201

Entry & Programme £4

Badge £3

Catering: Baked Potatoes with various fillings. Cakes

Beer: Loose Cannon

When we put together these hops one of the many things we co-ordinate is catering. On reflection we should have added another item to the menu, on top of the baked potatoes with a myriad of fillings, curry included, and that was celery soup. Why, I hear you ask, well the March in Marcham is derived from the old English word, merece meaning a place where celery grows! Ham means settlement so we visited the village where celery grows!

Like the other clubs I had the utmost confidence in Lindsay Mudie’s team to put on a great show for their visitors. In all probability they were the club that splashed their game the most over the local media and the village was given a liberal redecorating in hop posters. We had a first in hops I’ve organised, a poster campaign from the away team. I’m extremely pleased and grateful that East Hendred decided to promote their participation like this, it certainly meant there was a significant away following, and it gave them a taste of what I’ve little doubt they’ll be doing next year!

One of the great joys of the North Berks hop is the way the clubs love to direct you in, remember the “Welcome Hoppers” sign at Berinsfield last year? This time you really couldn’t miss Anson’s field, it was signposted from the main road from Abingdon, and who couldn’t have smiled at the sign for the minibuses… and Phil Annets?

It gave a wonderful first impression, and that continued as hoppers tucked into the excellent food and drink before watching the game on a ground that won’t be there for much longer. The ground is earmarked for housing, and negotiations are ongoing as to where the new ground will be, and what facilities will be provided. It looks like this season will be the last at Anson’s undulating sloping pitch, and whilst it will undoubtedly irk the purists, it certainly didn’t lack personality!

What many didn’t realise is that the pitch is like it is for a reason, there’s a Bronze Age Barrow and an early iron age settlement underneath!  Around 2 years ago archaeologists dug 6 trenches on the pitch and their reports can be found on the Vale of the White horse Planning Register here.

At the end of each hop, I always send out an email thanking the clubs for their efforts, and I ask what went well, and what they’d do differently if they had their time again. Lindsay’s email summed up Marcham’s afternoon nicely,

“What worked really well were the cake sales, we ran out of cakes in no time. Also having the raffle prizes next to the board with the teams on it helped too. A lot of the hoppers were tempted by the numerous  bottles of alcohol on the table and purchased a few raffle tickets. If I had the chance again I would do the following……

1)      Manage the football team myself

2)      Get some decent players

3)      Have more cakes for sale

 Apart from that I was happy with how the day went and thanks again for giving Marcham Football Club the chance to host one of the games in what sadly looks likely to be our last season on the field.”

Yes its fair to say that Marcham had a nightmare first half, with their visitors running riot. I wondered whether we’d see the second 10 goal rout in NBFL hop history, the first being a night at Uffington United none of us will ever forget. That didn’t happen, Marcham tightened up considerably in the second half but the game did produce one piece of North Berks Hop history, and the honour goes to East Hendred’s James Hicks.

I watched the second half stood next door to NBFL press officer Phil Annets and his mobile was going off regularly as he collated the scores coming in from other NBFL clubs together with the goalscorers. He spotted that James Hicks had scored for East Hendred’s reserves who’d kicked off at home at 2.30. Hicks had been named as a substitute, and when his game finished, dashed over to our game and played the last 17 minutes, just enough time to score the winner!

I’m sure Mr Hicks will be dining out on that story for years to come, but then I bet so will Phil and I! It amused us no end as the cavalcade made towards Kingston Bagpuise then on to the A420 for our last game of the day.

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