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Saturday 21st April 2012 ko 7.00pm

North Berkshire League Cup Final

DIDCOT CASUALS “A” 3 (Smith 66 Harper 68 71)


Att 126 (h/c)

At Milton United FC

Entry & Programme £2

Att 126

This for me was a complete bonus. I’d planned to take in the afternoon’s game at Stanford in the Vale, for quite some time, so with this one kicking off in perfect time for anyone doing an afternoon game in the area to call in, it really would have been rude not to!

I suspect quite a few groundhoppers will have visited “The Heights” when GroundhopUK finished off a day in the Hellenic League there. That was before I became involved, and I wasn’t there either, as I’d already done the ground, many times before! It’s a good example of how a village sports field can be improved to suit a club’s ambitions, and these days it reflects the club’s fortunes, as a side yo-yo’ing between the Hellenic Premier and Division One. It also reflects the league it originated in, the NBFL as there’s a fantastic view of Didcot Power Station! Until recently it was also used by Oxford United as a training base!

I should explain the title of the cup. It actually is the League Cup for teams that play in the bottom two divisions of the league. At present that’s Divisions 4 East and West, but it looks like that may revert to 4 and 5 for next season. With the majority of the teams in those divisions being reserves or “A” teams it was of no surprise that both finalists were not first XI’s.

There was a wonderful surprise when Jens from (near) Dusseldorf ambled up, beer in one hand, and fag in the other. Jens has over 5,400 grounds ticked, but approaches the hobby as I like to, with his tongue firmly in his cheek. I introduced him to League Press Officer Phil Annets, and oddly enough they got on like a house on fire! Don’t mention the War-Memorial Cup Final Phil!

If the Division 4 East table was to be believed this was an East Hendred banker, with the Casuals rock bottom with only 4 League wins all season! However the Casuals looked anything but a basement side, and looked secure in defence. Hendred did take the lead when Kevin Allen was at the end of a fine passing move to dink the ball over the on-rushing Nick Guiry in the Casuals goal. Hendred looked comfortable if unable to find a way though again, but everything changed during 5 mad second half minutes.

It all started with a goalkeeping howler, as Hendred keeper Roland Pacey’s misguided throw went directly to Casuals’ Andy Smith. His shot hit the bar, then down on to the goal-line, up on to the bar again in. Two minutes later, Casuals took the lead with a quite fabulous strike, a forty-yard blast of a free-kick from Daryl Harper. Three minutes after that, there was Harper again, tapping in after Pacey had done well to block a free kick played into the box.

A real turn-up for the books, and although Hendred pressed forward in the forlorn hope of redemption, they met with defence that didn’t look like it had shipped 47 goals in 20 league games. And in case you’re wondering whether players were shipped in for the final, not the case as the “A” side seem to run themselves separately from the rest of the club. Just one of those evenings when it all worked well for them.

The cup was presented by “Mr Milton United” John Cannon a real gentleman, who I’d had the honour to meet over a cup of tea at half time. A satisfying end to a great day’s football.