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Sunday 16th April 2017 ko 14.30

North West Counties League Division One

ASHTON TOWN 0

STOCKPORT TOWN 2 (Hinchliffe 29p 57)

Att 315

Entry £5

Programme £1.50

If any future host club at a groundhop wants a piece of advice on how best to endear themselves to the organiser I suggest having someone waiting to guide in the coach when we arrive at the ground. It sets the tone for the visit, in confirming competence and in the case of Ashton Town I’m not sure we’d have found the parking spot without help. You couldn’t help but like Ashton Town, tucked away as they are between the houses in the middle of Ashton-in-Makerfield but we all knew they had their own problems over and above coping with a crowd up to 10 times normal.

We caught them in the midst of a relegation battle. This visit saw them second-from-bottom of the league, but rather hoping that they’d retain their league status via the lottery of the AGM. Avoiding last place would help, putting them in prime position for any reprieves being offered.

On a different level we were also going to be seeing something a little unusual, a physio who was to appear in two hop games in two days. Lucy Weir serves as physio to both Ashton Town and Maine Road, as well as being an Atherton Collieries fan too. She was certainly seeing as much of the hop as any official since former Oakham United manager Wayne Oldaker saw all but one game of the United Counties/ Peterborough & District Hop two years ago! I’d have liked to have stopped for a chat, but I was being pulled in other directions.

You can always tell when a club have forgotten to post up the team line-ups, as a little group of hoppers always congregates by the clubhouse and I get pregnant glances in my direction. It wasn’t so much that the club had forgotten it’s just that they’d been swamped with work! So much do that the teamsheet hadn’t yet been written out for the referee, so it was a simple enough task to help out and prop the carbonated copy up at the window for the patrons to copy.

And that episode summed up my afternoon with Ashton Town. They are so obviously struggling and a 300-plus crowd was at the absolute extremes of what they could cope with, but I didn’t hear a bad word said about the club at any point. The reason of course is charm, I’ve spoken about it often enough in the past, how can you not love a club that hopes the opposition keeps the score down to single digits because Lucy had spent hours in A & E the previous week with their goalkeeper Matt Hodge he’d broken his tibia!

When the odds are stacked against you, the last thing you want is to have the youth team’s keeper as your last line of defence! To make things worse, it had been a full car, Scott Baker was A & E bound with a broken hand, too!

But it was Lucy’s opposite number who had the busier afternoon, and Ashton’s stand-in keeper George Dougherty had a inspired game. Sadly that didn’t add up to success for our hosts who stumbled to another defeat, and were destined to finish rock bottom of the NWCFL.

If I took a cynical view, and Town do get relegated I’d take the view that it was good to get GroundhopUK’s visit while they were still in the league. But I can’t look at them in those terms, what I saw was a club right in the centre of it’s community suffering a quite dreadful season. I wish them all the very best and hope to see them as a visiting team on another North West Counties Hop.

It would be remiss of me not to plug a charity match at Edge Green Street, on 19th May when a Wigan Athletic Legends XI take on a Dutch Masters XI. Further information can be obtained if you just click here!

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