Two down, one to go. After what had already been a very productive weekend the final leg of the Benelux journey took us another 296km firstly to Breda, the town where we would stay the night, and secondly on to Waalwijk for an early Sunday afternoon kick-off. The Dutch Jupiler League is the country’s second tier of football (not to be confused with the Belgian top-tier championship of the same name). For the home team, who were relegated from the top-flight last season, dreams of an imminent return to the Eredivisie heightened as a result of this match.
We arrived at the Mandemakers Stadion basking in the sunshine and still slightly worse for wear following a good night on the beer some hours earlier. With the mileage of the trip starting to take its toll on all of us the early kick-off at least ensured that we had to be in some way fit for the Sunday ahead. Nonetheless we had all agreed before the weekend that we expected this game to have the most quality on the pitch and we weren’t wrong. RKC Waalwijk, a club whose initials let you know of the club’s Roman Catholic roots, have spent most of the last twenty years in the top flight and expect to come straight back up whenever they go down. CS Cambuur, their visitors from the town of Leeuwarden, are a club of more modest targets and last tasted Eredivisie football over a decade ago but still went into the game knowing that they had a chance of qualifying for the promotion play-offs.
The game kicked off to a colourful banner from the home support and they had something to shout about just eleven minutes when Robert Braber gave RKC the lead following a defensive error. Twenty minutes later Ghanaian forward Fred Benson doubled the home side’s lead following a move which one could politely describe as route one. RKC Waalwijk were coasting the game and the modest away support of SC Cambuur – all 26 of them (I counted them at half-time) – had to suffer further in the second half as Benson grabbed his second of the game in the 53rd minute from the penalty spot. Donny de Groot bagged the fourth of the game for the home side in the 90th minute but SC Cambuur, who were a distant second best in the match, could at least celebrate a consolation strike from Kevin Diaz in stoppage time.
The game finished 4-1 to RKC Waalwijk much to the joy of the home support who knew that their team had accumulated the most number of points in the fourth period of the season and, at the very least, guarantee play-off football if not automatic promotion. FC Zwolle stand between RKC and first in the standings with the two teams due to fight it out next week but for now there was something to celebrate as the Waalwijk players reached for the champagne at the end of the match. As for myself and my fellow Eintrachtler our Groundhopping tour was now officially over and we headed back to Breda for a much deserved beer or ten. After all, having witnessed fourteen goals in three games spread throughout three countries in three days we were just as worthy of alcohol as any of the footballers we’d seen.
WATCH RKC WAALWIJK v SC CAMBUUR HIGHLIGHTS