THEY may have cut it fine, but Huntingdon Town should pass their ground grading inspection this week to beat the March 31 deadline that was casting a shadow over their promotion plans.
On Saturday, Ricky Marheineke’s in-form team went eight points clear at the top of the United Counties League Division One table after they beat Burton Park Wanderers in Northamptonshire and second-placed Harborough Town lost 2-1 at Bourne Town.
Today, the club was expecting to take delivery of – and install – a brand new 50-seater stand that will bring their Jubilee Park ground up to Step 6 and Grade G standard. Huntingdon then have a year to add seating for a further 50 fans in order to meet the Premier Division’s Grade F requirements.
There was a delay in the delivery of the new stand, which caused some concern at Huntingdon and at the UCL – but the club’s chairman Paul Hunt revealed: “In the end the company who are supplying the stand have pulled out all the stops to meet our demands. We thought there was going to be a problem – there wasn’t.”
UCL chairman John Weeks says he has seen this all before. “They have until the last hour, the last minute, the last second of March, to be fair,” he said. “I can remember Godmanchester Rovers manager Nev Nania, when he was chairman at St Ives, phoning me at 11.45pm on March 31 once – and then collapsing. But the work was done.”
To qualify for membership of the UCL Premier Division, Huntingdon also had to increase the amount of hard-standing areas around the Jubilee Park pitch – and Hunt was eager to thank the ‘community service’ workers who have been helping groundsman Alan Darlrymple and other volunteers to complete the work in time. “They have done a great job – they worked really hard,” he said.
The team has five games left and if promotion is secured, Hunt plans to add a second stand of 50 seats. He explained: “The idea is to buy another 50-seater and then we’ll move the 100 seats into the middle and see if we can move the covered standing area elsewhere.” He has also been in touch with Kettering Town, who recently left their ground, to see if they have anything to offer him.
The UCL’s ground grading officer Ian Hughes confirmed: “On March 31 next year they will need 100 seats and hard-standing for another 100.”
However, the Football Association is still looking at scrapping the United Counties Premier at the end of next season – so everything could change in terms of which league Huntingdon will be playing in come the season 2013-14 season. However, as long as the club have their 100 seats in place, they will be up to the correct standard for any division that the FA may deem to dump them in. Weeks, however, is worried by the axe that is hanging over the top division of the league he chairs. He says a lack of communication from the FA is causing problems now – not just when a decision is finally made.
“We are waiting on decisions from several teams about their futures,” he said. “In the Premier Division Daventry United are closing at the end of the season and Northampton Spencer have asked to be demoted.
“In Division One there are question marks over Buckingham Town and Rothwell Town. It has all been made so much worse by the FA’s suggestion.”