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Friday 29th April 2016 ko 18.30

Notts Senior League Premier Division

ATTENBOROUGH 5 (Warner 4 12 66 Wilkinson 16 Smith 72)

AWSWORTH VILLA 1 (Walsh 46)

Att 218

Saturday 30th April 2016 ko 10.05

Notts Senior League Premier Division

BEESTON 0

UNDERWOOD VILLA 0

Att 291

ko 12.45

Notts Senior League Division One

BILBOROUGH UNITED 1 (England 7)

ASHLAND ROVERS 0

Att 239

ko 15.15

Notts Senior League Division One

NOTTINGHAMSHIRE 0

GEDLING SOUTHBANK 3 (Needham 22 56 73)

Att 301

ko 18.15

Notts Senior League Premier Division

REAL UNITED 1 (Spears 51)

UNITY FC 1 (Hall 45)

Att 272

Each game cost £3 entry and £1 for a programme.

Rob Hornby has been part of the groundhopping firmament since 2004 and the famous Central Midlands League’s 5-games-in-a-day hop. He, with GroundhopUK organised the annual Central Midlands Bonanzas up until 2010. Solo, he organised two further CMFL Bonanzas before switching his skills to the Notts Senior League for 2013. With this event completing that league save for 3G pitches in cages, and the unsuitable Kirton Brickworks, Rob decided this event was to be his last.

On one level I and many others will miss Rob’s organising skills, after all the programme pack is very much his invention, and his hops especially in the Notts League are to grounds I’d have probably never visited any other way.

But Rob’s health has been failing, and with a young family his decision to quit now is one I’d support. Family must always come first and so I hoped this hop would be a fitting farewell to the affable Mansfield resident.

There was as ever plenty to consider. Much was made of the packed itinerary last year and on paper this event looked equally busy. Some suggested that the Real United game should have been played on the Friday using their lights but Attenborough are the junior partners with the cricket club so they had to play on the Friday. They did a fine job in opening the hop, and with the Saturday clubs being fairly close to each other the day didn’t seem anywhere near as tight for time as last time.

I’d enjoyed Attenborough’s easy efficiency both and on the field as I’d driven back from a meeting with the West Region Juniors at Hampden Park. Ultimately the agreement there will mean a hop in their area will replace the Notts Hop in 2017, but having a club in the here-and-now make your life easy for you was very much appreciated. They tore up the form book too, with an entertaining win.

Saturday saw the hop open with the final game for Beeston at the Hetley Pearson Ground prior to their move down the road to the nearby Siemens Ground, latterly home to Boots Athletic. The club were fine hosts, the lack of facilities not being a barrier to being able to provide everything that a hopper could want, or that could make them money. Sadly the game was attritional, and despite a disallowed goal, the nil-nil draw was predictable early on.

Bilborough United don’t play in Bilborough, but Basil Russell Park in Nuthall had a little cover. That was appreciated as the rains came, and although the pin badges will have to be posted out after the original stocks were lost in the post, the club hosted well. The club shifted pie and peas in quite gargantuan quantities, perhaps helped by the rain sending hoppers scurrying into the clubhouse! Again the game was poor, settled early on with Ashland keeper Adam Revuealta punching Rob England’s free kick up, but into his own net.

Nottinghamshire FC have quite a history, being formed in 1895 as Notts Magdala and have supplied players for prestigious amateur competitions thereafter.  But from a groundhop organising perspective the Grassington Road Sports Ground has difficulties aplently. Whilst there was room for two or more pitches, the only facilities were two shipping containers converted to changing rooms. It is therefore to the club’s massive credit that they coped so well with the biggest crowd of the hop. Why is it that the clubs with the fewest facilities try the hardest? Sadly for them, on the pitch they had both goalkeepers unavailable so manager Ian Randle was forced to stand in.

He did well, but Gedling Southbank got themselves mired in a midfield battle, only James Needham realised that there was a situation to be exploited. He collected the hop’s second hat trick, and the points for his team.

There were reasons to be worried about the last game. Firstly the Stoke Bardolph Ground was the home of defunct Gedling Town who departed the East Midlands Counties League in 2011. With that team having played Northern Counties East and Central Midlands League football there it was possible that given the demographic of the patrons on this hop that many would have visited before, and so head for home early. That didn’t happen to any great extent fortunately, but the club itself seemed ill at ease with the whole thing.

Any hop organiser will have games that you look to simply get through and move on, but this was Rob’s last hop game as organiser and as such deserved only a brilliantly hosted game. Sadly Real United hosted as badly as I expected.

We arrived to a ground that looked closed. The ticket holders had no separate gate, and there were complaints that those known to the club were being let in for free. For catering the club had promised Jerk Chicken but that hadn’t materialised, so they were serving inadequately microwaved pies instead. I worried about food poisoning, so pondered the team line-ups. They hadn’t been posted, so I paid a visit to referee Mick Leslie.

He’d got the Unity teamsheet but was looking for the Real line-up too! Just before kick-off those arrived but judging by what some hoppers had jotted down what was read out over the PA was different to what I’d copied out! Inwardly I wept for Rob who was being let down at every opportunity. If there was a guide to how not to host a hop game this was it and it was being followed to the letter. Rob deserved far better than this.

Thankfully the game was a vast improvement on the staging. Two sides who patently didn’t like each other slugged it out in the rain and in the end a draw was probably fair.

At the end of it all there was Rob shaking hands and thanking everyone for coming before couriering the coach back to Nottingham station. The truth of the matter is that every hopper should have made a point of coming up to him and thanking him for everything he’s done for the hobby, for the clubs in his area, for charity and for football in general.

Rob will not be lost to football entirely, he’s still registrar for the Notts Senior League, and I’ve little doubt he, Hazel and Shawn will be regular visitors to other hops organised. The hopping world still needs Rob Hornby and I trust he be able to continue to contribute for years to come.

At Attenborough

At Beeston

At Bilborough United

At Nottinghamshire FC

At Real United

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