Saturday 8th October 2016 ko 13.15
Western League Premier Division
WELLS CITY 2 (Pitman 52 Spill 84) Batchelor missed penalty 47 Brown sent off (2nd booking) 86
CADBURY HEATH 5 (Huxley 25p 48 56 Bailey 26 McElroy 82)
We arrived at the Athletic Ground, in Rowden’s Road, and I pleased to see a geographically challenged hopper park up next to me. The previous day he’d very nearly paid Bishops Sutton in Hampshire a visit rather than Bishop Sutton in Somerset, so I did wonder whether he’d made a beeline for Wells-next-the-sea. At one point we could have found GroundhopUK hopping the Anglian Combination I suppose, but then we could have easily been easily in a number of leagues. The Western League have been excellent hosts for us, and Chris Berezai had I had a special reason to want to be at Wells City.
I love to take a hop to visit the scene of its genesis. Chris and I presented to the league’s AGM and the clubs voted for the hop to happen 2 years ago here. I remember walking round and thinking this ground had the “Wow” factor, and with the benefit of more time this time, I may even have underestimated the place back then.
But Wells is interesting anywhere, named as it is after 3 wells dedicated to St Andrew and save for the City of London is England’s smallest city. The city was the final destination of the Bloody Assizes in September 1685.
Despite its diminutive size the cathedral dominates, with its peal of 10 bells being the world’s heaviest. Wells Cathedral School is dedicated to music but arguably its most famous pupil is Malcolm Nash who holds the dubious distinction of being the bowler when Garfield Sobers smashed six sixes in six balls in 31 August 1968. A lesser known fact is that Nash once hit four sixes in succession himself!
He could easily have played at Rowden’s Road, the ground was a former home to Wells Cricket Club, and held first-class status with Somerset using the venue until 1951. That explains the odd layout here with the clubhouse being good 50 yards away from the pitch. The cricket’s departure allowed the ground to be fully enclosed but you can still see the signs of multi-sport use, it was used for both cycling and athletics. That made sense of the gates, dedicated to local heroine Mary Rand (née Bignal) who won Gold in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics in the long jump.
The step up in class from the two previous games was obvious, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one present who allowed themselves a quiet smile when the first goal went in. Last year Cadbury Heath’s staging was first-class but the game was a dull nil-nil, perhaps they way to look at it was that they were due a goal or two!
Or five as it transpired, with Matt Huxley scoring a beautifully taken hat trick. League officials don’t tend to like dismissals on hop games, I can think of one Welsh league official who apologises to us whenever one happens, but Jake Brown’s 2nd booking was for the spectators simply more colour in a game full of incident and excitement. It was a shame in a sense it all had to end, but we had a county boundary cross for games three and four. I was saying it quietly but it was all going well, and even I was beginning to enjoy myself…..