NON-LEAGUE football fans flocked to the region in droves last weekend, with several local sides chosen to take part in this year’s North West Counties League Groundhop weekend.

Barnoldswick Town, Steeton, and Ilkley Town all hosted games, while Campion travelled to Huddersfield to face high-flying Golcar United in the weekend’s first match on Friday night, the visitors losing a thrilling First Division North encounter 3-2.

The biggest crowd came at Premier Division Barlick, who welcomed 517 fans as they were defeated 2-0 by Avro on Saturday night, while 479 watched new signing Jordan Townend’s thunderbolt secure a late First Division North victory for Steeton against Ashton Town on Sunday morning to move them seven points clear of the drop.

That game also saw stunning goals from Ashton’s Deklan Hill and Steeton’s Toby Jeffrey, and red cards for Town’s Ethan Van-Aston and the Chevrons’ Andy Briggs, so everyone got their money’s worth.

455 spectators then made their way to Ilkley’s MPM Stadium for the ‘Hop’s final match, an entertaining goalless draw in the First Division North between the Baht’atters and Garstang.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: George Gomersall (right) had a good chance early on for Ilkley Town in their 0-0 draw on Sunday. Picture: Richard Tomlinson.George Gomersall (right) had a good chance early on for Ilkley Town in their 0-0 draw on Sunday. Picture: Richard Tomlinson.

Martin Fallon, media officer and results co-ordinator for the NWCFL, beamed: “This year’s Groundhop has been the best attended that we have ever had, with a total attendance of 3,109 across the seven games.

“Every credit has to go to the clubs themselves though, for the success, the clubs really did work with each other. I’m a firm believer that what you put in, you get out, and given that the clubs did put a lot in this year, I hope that they have benefitted from the event.

“The feedback from groundhoppers has been fabulous this year, and you only have to look across social media platforms to see all of the positive responses.”

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Barnoldswick battled hard, but eventually went down to two second-half goals from Avro. Picture: 5 Little Boys Photography.Barnoldswick battled hard, but eventually went down to two second-half goals from Avro. Picture: 5 Little Boys Photography.

The popular annual event is aimed at groundhoppers – football fans who aim to travel to as many different grounds as they can worldwide – and has been run in conjunction with Groundhop UK since 2017.

This year, the attendees were provided with accommodation in Huddersfield and transport between matches, alongside advance tickets and matchday programmes.

Such an event has required a lot of forward planning to coordinate, with Fallon admitting that possible dates for the weekend are scheduled by the league before their attention turns to the regular fixtures.

“Getting teams from one area at home at the same time is difficult once fixtures are out,” he said.

“This season we opted to choose the East Lancashire and Yorkshire side of our league, because with Campion already hosting a Groundhop when they were in the Northern Counties East League, it meant that we could do all seven clubs that we have in that area at once.”

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Campion captain Aidan Kirby (red, jumping) could not lead his team to a win over Golcar United, as the Bradford side went down 3-2 in a cracking contest. Picture: Alex Daniel.Campion captain Aidan Kirby (red, jumping) could not lead his team to a win over Golcar United, as the Bradford side went down 3-2 in a cracking contest. Picture: Alex Daniel.

Ben Diskin, a groundhopper who runs the FanAFan podcast, attended both the Sunday matches and produced a 10-minute vlog of his first visit to Steeton’s Marley Stadium.

He said: “The Groundhop weekend was a good way to tick off grounds that I’ve not been to before, as well as to spend time with my friends.

“I have a lot of friends who have taken up watching non-league football while groundhopping, especially over the last two years.

“With professional football being played behind closed doors during Covid, people have been heading out to their local games to get their football fix.

“It’s seen a rise in attendances for a lot of smaller teams, which is always good to see.

“We were made to feel very welcome by all the clubs involved and the goals in the Steeton game were fantastic.”

Grzegorz Szczech also took in two games across the Hop weekend after travelling from his home in Crewe alongside his 11-year-old daughter, and was particularly delighted to visit Golcar and Steeton, two grounds that he had had on his bucket list.

All of our sides play next on Saturday, with Barlick at home to neighbours Padiham in the NWCFL Premier Division, while Campion, Ilkley and Steeton face Daisy Hill, Pilkington and Cleator Moor respectively in the First Division North (all kick-off 3pm).