HOPPER & SON SEE MOORS THRASH DOVER
It wasn’t our intended destination when we set off at 7:00am on a wet and windy morning , but everything about our trip to Solihull Moors panned out as if it were meant to be.
Myself and my 9-year-old son Liam are what would commonly be referred to as groundhoppers – football fans who travel to a different location each week in search of a new stand, a new terrace or a new grass bank from which to watch the beautiful game in all its glory. We’d been doing this together since 2013 when, as a fresh-faced 2 years and 6 months young whippersnapper, I took Liam to a game between Sutton United and my team Cambridge United. It was only a friendly match, so it was really a litmus test to see if he would enjoy the experience.
I got lucky – he did – and to cut a rather long story very short, we’ve been racking up grounds together ever since. This included completing the 92 as a 7-year-old in 2018, and a season of walking out as a mascot for various non-league football clubs after a simple tweet went viral!
We were only halfway through our first train Journey up to London, when a quick scroll through Twitter revealed the news that I was rather expecting – Leamington FC, whose ground was due to become our 336th visited together, had fallen foul of the weather and their game postponed. At the same time, Solihull Moors were declaring that their match had beaten the elements and was on. I had already identified Solihull as a suitable backup and, truth be told, had been tempted to head there anyway with the forecast looking more favourable 20 miles closer to Birmingham. In any event, it was now settled: a trip to Damson Park it would be.
After a quick dash across London on the tube, we set off on the final stretch of our journey from London Marylebone on a vastly overcrowded 2 carriage train. An hour and a half later, we had arrived in sunny Solihull, a far cry from the miserable conditions we’d left behind us in Havant some 4 hours earlier. It was a bit windy but the conditions were perfect for the 2 and a half mile walk to the ground.
After a spot of lunch en route, we arrived at the ground around about 2pm. As we entered the ground, we were greeted warmly by the stewards and this was a theme throughout our visit. I personally felt that everyone we encountered from the stewards to the chap in the club shop were very welcoming, helpful and chatty. The ground was a little different from what I remembered when watching the televised FA Cup tie with Blackpool last season. The main stand had been extended and although it allowed great views of the pitch, there were a few obstructing pillars which might have been issue had we not had a range of seats to choose from. The three temporary stands opposite looked a little out of place, perhaps, but are no doubt evidence of a work in progress for a team on the up.
The match kicked off as Liam tucked into his first Chicken Balti pie of the season and the early exchanges were fairly open although I could see that Solihull looked dangerous on the break with a mixture of pace and quick passing. Despite this, there weren’t too many clear opportunities. The wind was blowing a gale by now and with Liam starting to complain about the cold, we needed something to liven up the game and on 36 minutes the opening goal came when a Moors’ free-kick flicked in off a Dover defender. 1-0 it remained until half-time.
We joined the Moors fans in the Jerroms Stand for the second half, hoping for some more goals – but it proved to be quite an uneventful start. There were more goals to come, but Liam’s favourite moment of the game was to happen beforehand, when part of the corner flag was shattered by Dover’s Ricky Modeste as he tussled for the ball directly in front of us. I didn’t get a clear look of the actual incident (probably checking the Cambridge score on Twitter) but I did look up just as a shard of plastic flew at my torso, eventually landing at my feet! I was tempted to pick it up and take it home as a souvenir but it was muddy and wet so I left it well alone.
By now Solihull looked firmly in control and they went on to score two further goals. Both came from the lively Callum Howe, who was quick to seize his opportunities – firstly when two Dover defenders dallied on clearing a dangerous cross into the box, and then being first to the loose ball when a headed rebounded off the bar. There were further chances for the home side, and a lively cameo from former Cambridge United forward Danny Wright – who we were lucky enough to meet and have a photo with before the game – but 3-0 would prove to be the final score.
As we headed away from the ground, with Liam signing Danny Wright’s name to the tune of ‘Give It Up’ by KC & The Sunshine Band, we were able to reflect on the day’s events. On a day where the weather had again threatened to be the early winner, we’d got to visit a ground which I’d been keen to visit previously, seen 3 goals and come away unscathed from an incident involving a corner flag! A long journey home awaited but we’d enjoyed some more quality father and son time and made plenty of new memories in the process.
Thanks to Hopper & Son for their report on a fantastic visit to Damson Park. We're very glad they enjoyed it! If you want to follow what they get up to next week, or catch up with how they did the 92 (or a season of Liam getting to be a mascot), you can follow them on Twitter @CPriday.
Thanks also to professional hair model Danny Wright for posing for the above photo with Liam.