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Wednesday 9th August 2016 ko 19.45

Eastern Counties League Division One

WISBECH ST MARY 6 (Lennon 9 18 Davey 23 62 Harris 60 Woods 76)

DEREHAM TOWN RESERVES 0

Att 72

Entry £4

Programme £1

It was an evening of ironies, not least passing the likes of Thorney and Eye that the Peterborough Hop had visited less than a fortnight earlier en route to an Eastern Counties League game. Then  was the fact that a few had opted to miss two hop games to visit this ground. I know and understand the hopper that refuses to drop below Step 6, and of course there were plenty who couldn’t simply pick Beechings Close up on a midweek like this. I did ponder also the irony of the hop organiser getting 3 ticks out of Thorney, Eye, and Wisbech St Mary when plenty managed one. Each to their own of course…

The ironies continued when I reached the ground. Some maps have the close with the sportsfield and community at it’s back as Beecham’s Close. It isn’t, Beechings Close is off Station Road, and the station closed in 1959 due to…. well it wasn’t the Beeching Axe. Dr Beeching’s report was published in 1963!

Of course the groundhoppers’ interest in Wisbech St Mary is due to their elevation from the Cambridgeshire County League for this season. You’d assume they are the champions or runners-up wouldn’t you? Well, you be wrong, they finished 5th, but since the lower division of the ECL had vacancies they could cherry-pick anyone who was willing and able to make the step up.

And Wisbech St Mary are certainly willing and able. Quite herculean efforts have occurred and are in place to get the ground up to Step 6 standard, and on this evening all that was missing was the “Arena” stand which will be delivered in the next few weeks, and is set to be placed in front of the paybox.

One tip though, if you want hot food, I suggest you find the local fish & chip shop before the game. The club does chocolate bars and the like and very kindly distributed the cakes and sandwiches that would have been given to the away team’s officials, but since they were playing a reserve team, just the players and managers were present. I drove past the now closed chippy after the game!

I’m not sure why the ECL scheduled Wisbech St Mary’s first four games against reserve teams, although it certainly helped prevent us losing more hoppers here so I’m grateful for small mercies. Perhaps the idea is to ease the club into Step 6 football, but on the pitch there is clearly absolutely no need!

Put simply they destoyed a very young Dereham side that looked more like a youth team, and bore no resemblance to the team I’d seen at Mundford a couple of weeks earlier.

There was one final irony towards the end. A hopper recognised me and mused on why I hadn’t visited during the hop. I did point out that as organiser it wouldn’t exactly have been the done thing. I didn’t mention the news that the ECL “Groundhopper Days” organiser has approached us for help, there was no point. But I, like many others would love to be in a position where I could attend one of their events. But without an agreement over negotiation over diary dates that won’t happen. The offer has been made afresh and I live in hope.

Until then I’ll content myself with slowly visiting the grounds one by one.

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