Plans for Non-League Day itself quickly unravelled when my son announced that he was not prepared to undertake the six hour round trip to Staines to watch Eastbourne Borough. It was a bitter blow for me. I haven’t seen The Sports play for far too long and had been looking forward to seeing Tommy Widdrington’s re-shaped team, which has started the season strongly.in the Conference South.
The day was recovered though by a decision to make the shorter trip to Hinckley United to see them take on Weymouth in the Southern Premier League Premier Division. Initially my interest was in Weymouth courtesy of Ian Ridley’s excellent book Floodlit Dreams but the home club won me over with their football, their fans and their facilities.
Times have been tough in recent seasons for Hinckley United, a club formed in 1997 by the merger of Hinckley Town with Hinckley Athletic. Having initially achieved their aim of higher level football for their town financial problems kicked in. In 2011/12 the club were relegated from Conference North but received a reprieve due to financial problems at both Darlington and Kettering. It was only temporary though an in 2012/23 the club finished bottom with only 3 wins all season.
Their De Montfort Park Stadium, currently sponsored and known as the Greene King Stadium, is very impressive for their new Southern Premier League status. They moved from Middlefield Lane in 2005 to this purpose built facility which features additional pitches, including an all-weather one, and conference facilities. The highlight though has to be the club shop which was an unexpected delight with shelves of second-hand books and array of programmes, shirts and badges from round the leagues – not to mention its friendly and knowledgeable guardian.
The first half of the match was a little scrappy although both ‘keepers had to make good saves. Just before the interval, however, Weymouth made a breakthrough as Stewart Yetton was left unmarked to head home a free kick. Taking relative league positions into account it felt like Weymouth would kick on to control the second half but within minutes of the restart the game had burst into life.
First Hinckley equalised with a penalty from Mark Branch after some silly antics from Weymouth defender Danny Clay who following some pantomime theatrics in the build-up to a free kick was then penalised for a shirt pull when the ball was finally played in.
It was only minutes later that Yetton again headed Weymouth into the lead but the home side were immediately back on terms when a fantastic cross from the lively Dudidat was headed home on the dive by Canavan. Indeed Dubidat was a problem for the visitors throughout the second half as they grew increasingly frustrated with his determined running. Full back Wells was withdrawn having received a yellow card for his numerous fouls on Dubidat, only for his replacement Wood to also see yellow for a challenge on the same player.
Despite the second half only being 10 minutes old when Canavan made it 2-2 there were no more goals but Hinckley did have three excellent chances to win the game. Encouraged by their small but enthusiastic support they grew in stature and belief and will no doubt feel a little hard done by with only a point to show for their efforts, especially as it leaves them second from bottom in the table.