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Monday 19th August 2013 ko 19.45

FA Cup Extra-Preliminary Round Replay

BINFIELD 3 (Rapley 15 Havermans 34 Davies 45)

FLACKWELL HEATH 2 (Dickens 9p 68) Brown sent off 90 (2nd booking)

Att 204

Entry £5

Programme £1

I think Binfield the village has an image problem. The trouble is that when you tell people where you’re heading you inevitably tell them its near to Bracknell, and Binfield is as far removed from the New Town modernity and roundabouts as is possible.

Painter John Constable spent his honeymoon at the Rectory in 1816 and sketched All Saints Church twice. The church said to have been a refuge for a number of Parliamentary soldiers during the Civil War. Poet Alexander Pope lived nearby and was a choirboy here.

From the late 19th century to the 1960s, brick-making was an important industry in the area, with the Binfield Brick and Tile works at Amen Corner being an important employer. Binfield bricks were partly used to create the Royal Albert Hall.

Hill Farm Lane is tucked away off the main road, the signs the club have provided are both welcome and necessary. You expect a small rustic ground, so what opens out in front of you is a real bonus. I first visited here well over 10 years ago. There wasn’t much there, just a set of changing rooms, a small amount of cover behind one goal, and railed-off pitch, rather typical of the Chiltonian League, of which they’d been members, but that had been merged into the Hellenic League.

That day I’d arrived early for a late-season kick-off, and found a picnic chair and waited for everyone else to arrive. I picked up and read a discarded programme and discovered that the game had been switched to Bracknell Town’s floodlit Larges Lane! I soon returned on a number of occasions, most notably the club’s Hellenic Hop game. Each time I visited, they’d carried out another piece of improvement work.

But why revisit a ground I’ve visited so often? For one its the FA Cup, and I hadn’t seen an FA Cup fixture on the weekend, but the main reason was Roger Herridge. He’s the assistant manager at Binfield, and reads these articles. He’s asked a number of times when I was going to watch his team, so off I trotted.

The first thing I noticed was just how well organised everything was, despite the large crowd. I paid and parked easily despite the fact that there is only one entrance. I exchanged a joke or two with the parking attendants which set the entire tone for the evening. Not only were there plenty of volunteers, but without exception they were helpful and friendly. I asked for the line-ups and was handed a teamsheet, a first in the Hellenic League, and its clear that sooner or later they’ll be plying their trade in the Southern League.

I’d missed the first instalment of this tie, a tough 0-0 draw at Wilks Park. This was a far better game, passionate, committed but not without skill. I’d have happily seen the game go into extra-time, something I doubt Roger would have liked!

Flackwell took the lead from an Adam Dickens penalty, before a half-an-hour spell won the tie for Binfield. Dan Rapley tapped home from close range, before Joel Havermans fired home for 2-1. Carl Davies’ penalty looked to have made things safe just before half-time, but Dickens second made it a frantic last few minutes. Jeff Brown collected his second yellow card for a bout of pushing and shoving at a free-kick, but despite the stern challenges this was a fine game to watch.

I lingered a little after the final whistle, it was good to see good use being made of the clubhouse, another massive improvement since my last visit, but eventually I made my farewells and slipped into the night, giving a fellow hopper a lift to Bracknell station on the way home. You see, you really can’t avoid Bracknell can you?

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