Sunday, October 11, 2015

Leamington 2 at Hitchin Town 2 (Southern Premier League) - October 5, 2015


After a busy weekend watching sport, I had a chance to relax on Monday afternoon, touring the Greenwich Observatory (home of the Prime Meridian) and the Museum of Natural History. But I needed to find a game to attend in the evening. There is normally an EPL match on Monday, but this week was an international break, so the big boys were off to play for their national teams in Euro or World Cup Qualifying. I thus had to scour the lower level fixtures to see if there was something close to London. I eventually found the Southern Premier League, the semi-pro 7th level in the English soccer pyramid, and was happy to see that Hitchin Town FC had a home game on Monday evening.



Hitchin is about 35 miles north of London in Hertfordshire and easily reachable on the Great Northern Line from King's Cross. I was expecting a sleepy hamlet, but as we began to walk to the ground from the station, I was surprised to see near gridlock on the road. Being so close to London, Hitchin seems to be a commuter town and many commuters were on their way home around 6 pm.



Hitchin Town FC play at Top Field, about a mile from the train station, but an easy walk. Along the way, you will pass the Victoria Pub, which has a nice Monday supper that is worth stopping for. Gary had joined me for this little adventure and after we enjoyed our dinner with some real English ale, we left the pub and ran into a gentleman with a Hitchin Town FC scarf who was obviously on his way to the game. He walked with us the rest of the way to the ground, explaining how Top Field had been in danger of being torn down to make way for a supermarket, but the local community had gathered together to save it.



Entry to the ground is £10 for adults, though are no stubs with the date and opposition handed out, just a simple ticket like you would find in an arcade with the word "Adult" printed on it. You can sit most anywhere, and as it was a damp night so we chose the covered area near midfield. If you want a souvenir, programs are £2 and well worth it as you get several detailed articles on the players and the club. There is no scoreboard, so you'll have to time the game yourself if you want to keep score.



Just inside the turnstiles is Canary Corner, a bar that is open to all supporters during the match. HTFC is nicknamed the Canaries due to their yellow kit.



The visitors were top-of-table Leamington, who took a 2-0 lead only to have Hitchin Town fight back to knot the game at 2. I'm not going to recap the game here because the Hitchin Town website does a great job of it. It was interesting to me that just as in yesterday's game at Charlton, the home team came back from two goals down to draw the match in exciting fashion. The 311 fans on hand for this one were thoroughly entertained.



For me, it was a great experience to see non-league football and I'll be following Hitchin Town FC from afar from now on.

Notes

There are 22 levels of football in the English pyramid so the 7th level is actually relatively high, despite being termed semi-pro. It is theoretically possible for a club to be promoted from here all the way to the Premier League, though in practice it is virtually impossible due to financial constraints.

As a comparison, there are seven levels of affiliated baseball in the United States (MLB, AAA, AA, A+, A, Short-season, Rookie) but beyond that there are no similarities between the two. Minor league baseball is entirely professional and well supported as a developmental mechanism for the majors, while non- league football is aimed at providing entertainment to smaller communities throughout England. If you are interested in learning more about non-league football and the thousands of potential sports road trip destinations, check out the Non-League Daily website.

Best,

Sean

1 comment:

  1. I have been watching non-league football since 1998 and Top Field is one of my favourite non-league grounds that I have been to. Another good source for non-league football is the Non-League Matters forum (http://nonleaguematters.co.uk/forum/gforum.cgi?).

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