North Berks League Hop 2015

The North Berkshire League has really always been a village league with the strict ruling that member clubs must be situated within a 20 mile radius of Steventon Green, however, latterly the burgeoning reputation for the League has seen it take in various waifs and strays that have fallen on hard times following exploits at a higher level. Similarly to last year, the 2015 Groundhop commenced with an additional Friday night game at one of the few floodlit grounds in the League. Last season it was Abingdon Town that provided the venue for the additional game to the main event and this time they were the opponents for another club that had also chosen to drop out of the Hellenic League.

Friday September 18th 2015 – North Berks League Div.1

Wallingford Town (0) 0

Abingdon Town (0) 1 (Pitson 60)

Attendance: 125 (at Hithercroft Sports Park)

A very tight encounter with two very evenly matched sides looked initially as if both sides would cancel each other out particularly as both goalkeepers were in fine form. However, it was the visitors that took the points when Steve Pitson netted with aplomb when Wallingford were caught on a swift counter attack.

Hithercroft has changed considerably in recent years notably the old main stand has been replaced by the increasingly ubiquitous Arena Seating modular unit. The club have prepared well and the old double decker bus converted into a bar downstairs and an elevated viewing gallery upstairs is every bit as genial as it is quirky. A crowd of 125 isn’t bad at all considering the ground had been “hopped” in the inaugural North Berks hop and the considerable attraction of the televised England v Fiji opening game of the Rugby World Cup.

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Saturday September 19th 2015 – North Berks League Div.2 (Kick-off: 10.30am)

Hanney United (2) 4 (J.Bishop pen 16, 41, Woodside 77, Webster og 88)

Marcham (2) 2 (Larman 7, Dodds 24)

Attendance: 171 (at War Memorial Ground)

Hanney originally played at The Meads in West Hanney before the War Memorial Hall was built in the 1970’s. The clubs pitch was originally at the far end of the cricket field but in recent years the club has used a pitch to the right of the cricket pitch. The club put on a grand opening to the day’s events making superb use of limited facilities to make sure everyone is fed with breakfast followed by enough cake to give Mr Kipling a run for his money. The North Berks Cup is on display as well as a fascinating display of the clubs history which included winning this handsome trophy in four consecutive seasons in the 1940’s. Heady days for Hanney.

The game itself is an entertaining affair with the opponents Marcham out of the traps the quicker and looking stronger than their hosts. However, an equaliser for the hosts before half time proved pivotal and Hanney dominated the second half as Marcham seemed to run out of puff.

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Saturday September 19th 2015 – North Berks League Div.3 (Kick-off: 13.30pm)

Grove Rangers (4) 4 (Pickering 2, Dix 18, Cramp 21, 23)

Benson Lions (0) 1 (Radcliffe 88)

Attendance: 154 (at Cane Lane)

Grove Rangers have a lengthy history dating back to the turn of the 20th Century and usually play on the pitch behind the clubhouse of Grove Rugby Club. With the oval ball guys also having a big match on today the football club were asked to use the “back pitch” ironically their original pitch often called Wasbrough Field. Still the unexpected change of venue gave the added bonus of the statue of a DeHavilland Venom close by which marks the runway of a wartime RAF base.

The hosts take the lead within two minutes of the start of the game and when three more quickly follow the watching crowd begin to fear for the visitors shorn of many regulars due to active service. However two half time changes, a late arriving centre back and outfield player taking over in goal from another outfield player had a steadying effect and Benson escaped further punishment. Indeed their veteran player/manager Jon Radcliffe earned a late cheer when he scored a cracking goal which was celebrated in equally fine style.

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Saturday September 19th 2015 – North Berks League Div.1 (Kick-off: 16.30pm)

East Hendred (0) 1 (Rowe 48)

Long Wittenham Athletic (1) 1 (Cheong 25)

Attendance: 204 (at Mill Lane)

Back into the top division for the days’ final encounter and the step up shows with both sides looking fitter and faster. Another very even encounter eschews on a good service which sloped alarming downhill in the final third of the pitch at the far end. A goalkeeper taking a goal kick could only be seen from the waist up from the pavilion end such is the camber of the pitch at that end. The match was for the James Rennie Memorial Trophy and a draw was just about the right result although the hosts missed several chances in the second half.

The club put on a great event with curry and Bolognese available as well as yet another cake stall (oh I couldn’t possibly…well ok then just a small piece). The club live up to their nickname of The Owls by having a local expert conduct a display with a collection of different owls, one of which was purported to be 36 years old. East Hendred were originally formed in 1912 but folded in 1982 due to a lack of volunteers. Fortunately they reformed in 1994 and gained promotion to the top division last season having finished runners up in Division 2. On today’s display they certainly do not look out of place in the top tier.

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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.


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)


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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