North Berks League Hop 2014

Despite living by the Thames myself it still comes as a pleasant surprise that the inland reaches of this mighty waterway stretch so deeply into middle England. This weekend’s festival of sport is centred in and around the extremely pleasant Oxfordshire market town of Abingdon which sits sleepily on the Thames. Not so much the Thames Footpath this weekend more the Thames Football path if you will.

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Abingdon Town (1) 3 (Barroso 29, Lightfoot 83, Sutton og 90)

Saxton Rovers (0) 0

Attendance: 192 (at Culham Road)

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The Friday night sees a bonus game pitched as a fundraiser for flood stricken Abingdon Town whose Isthmian League heyday now seem another lifetime ago. Culham Road is a ground very much out of keeping with this “village green” league having cover on three sides and really is worthy of a far higher grade of football. Tonight’s game is against very local rivals Saxton Rovers and the game has an edge to it from the start. The hosts take the lead with a scrappy goal from Barroso when Saxton failed to clear their lines and it separated the combatants at the break. The second half was notable for an incident when a visiting official was ordered from the dugout for allegedly abusing the linesman. Saxton didn’t allow the incident to rattle them and were very much in the game until the closing moments. Rob Lightfoot put the game beyond doubt with a swift break away goal finished with no little aplomb. Another late goal came when the unfortunate Sutton in trying to clear a corner only succeeded in slamming the ball into his own keeper’s face and into the net. The own goal gave the final score a slightly lop-sided feel to the overall match. A decent prelude to proceedings though.

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Crowmarsh Gifford (0) 0

Wallingford Town (0) 1 (Searle 54)

Attendance: 215 (at the Crowmarsh Gifford Recreation Ground)

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It’s an early start at this venue sat right next to the river and another most local of local derbies. Wallingford are something of another fallen giant having, in former guises, played in both the Combined Counties and Hellenic Leagues. Hosts Crowmarsh Gifford put on a great effort in hosting the biggest crowd in their short nine year history. Everything runs like clockwork and we witness a very tight game between two very evenly matched sides. A moment of brilliance won the game when the visitor’s Ashley Searle netted the only goal with a magnificent overhead kick.

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Dorchester (3) 3 (J.Nicholls 6, J.Fleet 6, Patterson 11)

Ardington & Lockinge (0) 0

Attendance: 204 (at Drayton Road)

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Another well organised event and it’s the hosts that open this fixture with an incredible burst, including the quite rare event of two goals being scored within the same minute as Josh Nicholls opened the scoring on six minutes and Jamie Fleet scored again almost immediately after the restart. Impressive youngster Cameron Patterson netted a third just five minutes later and the contest was effectively over from that point. The visitors looked more solid in the second half but blotted their copy book when full back Luke Fairclough was red carded for a very high challenge on Jack Rowe.

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Marcham (0) 1 (Armstrong 82)

East Hendred (5) 7 (Moss 18, pen 29, Sutton 27, Hummel 32, Doig 42, A.Wise 56, Hicks 86)

Attendance: 201 (at Anson Field)

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If the was an award for best food of the weekend, then Marcham’s superb chilli con carne would get my vote. Suitably fortified we watch an incredible game on a very undulating pitch at Anson Field. So uneven is the pitch its no surprise the club are looking to relocate to elsewhere in the village. Sadly for the friendly hosts their team put on a horror show in the first half and the jubilant visitors help themselves to five goals in the opening half. Marcham apply themselves a little better in the second half but some profligate finishing from East Hendred prevents what could easily have been a double figure scoreline.

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Benson Lions (0) 1 (Papa 46)

Grove Rangers (0) 1 (Reid 59)

Attendance: 172 (at The Watchfield, Defence Academy Shrivenham)

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Having hosted a great hop match at their own ground last season we knew what to expect from Benson Lions. They did a roaring trade on tasty burritos and beer and a healthy crowd passed the scrutiny of the high security gatehouse to enjoy this rather unusual venue. Floodlit and with a raised grass bank, it’s was a rare chance to see a game on an MOD base. A decent game was played out with Marco Papa opening the scoring for the Lions just after the break, finding the net at a second attempt having squandered the initial opening. The plucky visitors equalised through Marc Reid and a draw in the end was fair result. This game was a most suitable contest for the James Rennie Memorial Trophy, a great supporter of North Berkshire football.

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North Berks League Hop 2013

Benson Lions (0) 1 (Keighty 83)

Westminster (2) 4 (McMahon 17, 59, Bourton 30, 69)

Att: 153 (at RAF Benson)

The first game of the hop required the issuing of a temporary base pass to be allowed into RAF Benson. Once the formalities were sorted the base put on an excellent breakfast for the arriving masses. Sadly their team struggled today, seemingly with a number of regulars away on active service. This handicap should take nothing away from their guests, Westminster, whose front two Neil McMahon and Josh Bourton netted a brace of well taken goals apiece. The airmen reduced the arrears with a late goal from Ryan Keighty but in truth they were a well beaten side. The match ended with a pair of red kites circling the venue.

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Berinsfield (2) 4 (D.Murphy 33, 45, 47, Curtis 81)

Faringdon Town (0) 0

Att: 251 (at Lay Avenue)

What strikes you with Berinsfield is the sense of community, the Lay Avenue facility is a real village hub and the club’s officials and volunteers pull out all the stops to accommodate a record North Berks League Hop attendance. It has to be said that their trophy haul, kindly put on display, is mightily impressive. Their team more than live up to the occasion and in David Murphy, Berinsfield have a real quality finisher, his hat-trick is very well taken indeed. Substitute Mason Curtis nets a late fourth which prompted the visiting captain, Darren Quegan to get himself sent off for arguing with the referee having already been booked.

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Long Wittenham Athletic (2) 4 (Murphy 27, Saunders 35, Bowler 55, Barton 64)

Crowmarsh Gifford (0) 0

Att: 193 (at Bodkins Sport Field)

After a nice drive through some picturesque Middle England landscapes the final ground of the day is reached. The Bodkins Sports Field is a really rural venue and feels more enclosed than the other two grounds, perhaps a relic from their Hellenic League days in the 1970’s. The clubhouse does a brisk trade as do the food and cake stalls outside. The impressive looking North Berks Junior Trophy is also on display. In a strange game the visitors are the better side until a fortunate goal see the hosts register the first goal. The visitors seem to fall apart and more home goals follow at regular intervals and ultimately Long Wittenham are good value for the win.

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A decent day out with plenty of goals for the travelling hordes to enjoy. The three host clubs did a magnificent job in catering for their visitors. One can only hope they all turned a decent profit as their efforts, without exception, merited a good payday. Days like today, superbly organised as always by GroundhopUK, give you an enormous sense of well being.

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