Deeping Rangers FC
Deeping Sports Club
Ground Number: 390
Friday 1st August 2014
Deeping Rangers 3-0 Harborough Town
United Counties League - Premier Division
I was delighted when Groundhop UK announced that they were doing a United Counties League groundhop in early August. With it being a week before the Football League started, I was guaranteed not to have it ruined by the fixture planners putting a Wycombe home game on that day, sadly that was not to be the case with the NCEL groundhop later on this season as they selfishly put a home game on Good Friday / Easter Saturday. The Northern Counties East League was where I discovered what a good job Groundhop UK do with the planning and advance sales of tickets and programmes. It was also when I became serious about hopping step 5 and step 6 - my prior feeling was that I really wanted to go and see the Bridlington Town v Scarborough game, and this would be a good way to justify the expense, with there being 3 games on that day. It turned out that I really liked the NCEL, especially the lovely surroundings at Pickering. The hop was twinned with the Peterborough & District League that operates at step 7 and below, and I decided to attend some of theirs too, even though I doubt I will hop below step 6 much. Below that level tends to be just fields, and I'm not really into that, though that said, the 'grounds' in some step 6 leagues (I'm looking at you Hellenic League) are not much better.
Deeping Rangers were formed in 1964. I had previously seen them in March 2013 when they triumphed 3-2 at Shepshed Dynamo. The home side had since left the United Counties League but Deeping Rangers were still there and they had finished a very credible 4th last season. This was their second best finish as they were champions in 2007, but for whatever reason did not take promotions. I had visited their ground a few years earlier while on the way to a Wycombe away game and was very impressed, it was a very tidy venue for step 5. The club had had a few decent players turn out for them, most well known being Malcolm Christie who went on to play for Middlesbrough and Derby County. Their best ever FA Cup run came in 2011 when they beat Spalding United, Belper Town & New Mills before losing to Leek Town in the 2nd Qualifying Round. In the FA Vase they have reached the 3rd Round in the same season, before going out to Newcastle Benfield.
Harborough Town were formed in 1975, but it wasn't until 2010 that they made the United Counties League. That debut season was a disappointment, with them finishing bottom out of all 17 teams in the Division 1. The next season saw a miraculous recovery with them finishing runners up and gaining promotion to the Premier Division. The 2 seasons since had seen them remain stable, finishing in lowly positions, but avoiding relegation. Last season saw them finish 17th, 12 points ahead of bottom side Stewart & Lloyds Corby who were the only team to be relegated. Last season saw them make their debut in the FA Cup - a 2-1 victory over Teversal was followed up with an 8-0 defeat to Mickleover Sports. They also made their joint best progress in the FA Vase, beating Holbrook Sports and Barrow Town before losing out to Grimsby based Cleethorpes Town.
Richard Stearman and Chris Carruthers are 2 players who progressed from the club to play in the football league. The latter was due to sign for my team Wycombe in the 2005 close season, but pulled out joining at the last minute. He had spent the last part of the previous season on loan at Bristol Rovers, but had been offered nothing, and so signed a contract with Wycombe for the upcoming season. However, before he went on holiday, he sent Rovers manager Ian Atkins a text, asking if they were ready to do a deal. Atkins said yes and so he asked Wycombe to rip up his contract, which they agreed to. This led to him getting a bit of stick from the Wycombe crowd whenever he played there, however, this was not to be for long, as he dropped back into non league football a few years later and started his own business.
It was a surprisingly easy day at work for a Friday, and I was finished by midday. I went home, had a bath and spent a few hours relaxing until it was time to leave at 4pm. The journey was a mixed bag, free flowing in places and jammed up in others, as you would expect for Friday rush hour. I was frustrated on the way by Facebook not working on my phone in the traffic jam, and the awful reception on my very limited car radio.
I got there at 6.30 and after parking up was dismayed to have to pay £3.70 for a pint of Strongbow. It seemed very expensive, although the bar was at least nicely decorated. I had a chat with a couple of ground hoppers that I knew and it was good to have a catch up. I was only going to have one pint at that price and so after taking a look on Facebook and typing my blog, I went in the ground just before 7pm.
I showed my ticket to go in and went to collect my programme pack off of Chris and Laurence. By then I was hungry, so I got a bowl of Curry and Rice for £3 and some chips for £1.60. After that I went and looked through some of the programmes in the stand and waited for the game to start.
The first half was not the best I have ever seen but Deeping Rangers were by far the better side. They got their reward for domination on 38 minutes when Ben Lewis, the centre back, headed in from a cross. This spurred Harborough into action and they had their best chance soon after. This was followed by a meaty tackle on a Harborough player. His opponent tried to argue but was told by the injured player 'Shut the f*ck up you little blond haired twat'. Because of this injury, the first half was late finishing, and it was past a quarter to nine before the referee blew his whistle.
At half time I went to the toilet and also to put my bag back in the car. The second half continued in much the same same as the first with the home side well on top and forcing the Harborough keeper into several good saves. They doubled their lead on 78 minutes when Ryan Oliver found some space in the area and finished well past the keeper. It was 3-0 soon after when right back Dan Flack ran all the way down the right side before cutting in and finishing well with 5 minutes to go. That was how it stayed and it was a reasonable start to the hop.
I drove back to my hotel in Peterborough and had planned to park in a street that appeared to have no yellow lines. However, it was still residents parking and so I had to go to the nearest car park. It was a right faff. I tried to use their app or phone payment service. But both were as stubborn as anything and I couldn't get them to work. In the end, I just stuck a couple of quid in to cover me until 8am, and set my alarm to wake up in time to decide what I would do next. It was a rip off anyway - 50p for one hour or £2.30 for 2 hours. I decided I'd play them at their own game.
I checked into my hotel, a Travelodge, which was in a grim part of the city full of nightclubs playing dreadful music and selling overpriced alcopops. Being a bit more cultured, I headed off to the brewery tap and had a pint of Oaple Cider, which was a new try for me. Then it was off to Wetherspoons for a pint of my favourite cider, Black Dragon. I ummed and arred over another pint, but decided to call it a night. I walked back to my hotel, getting ever more sober and regretted not staying for one more once I remembered the ghetto I was staying in. Oh well, what's done is done, I watched Corrie and went to sleep just after 1 amOUTGANG ROAD is one of the better grounds at step 5. There is a neat main stand with seating for around 150 and further cover for around 300 more fans. The bar is nice, but a bit pricey. As for food, I'm not sure what the usual offering is, but when I went there was some decent stuff like curry and fish and chips. The club shop is good for this level, offering badges, clothes and a good selection of old programmes.