Saturday 5th December 2015 ko 14.00
North Berkshire League Division 3
COMPTON 2 (Butler 25 Sosnowy 82)
HARWELL VILLAGE 5 (Robins 16 Fisher 79 Fenton 31 73 89)
For the avoidance of any doubt this Compton is a village near Newbury in Berkshire and not south-central Los Angeles! As far as I know no gangsta rappers hail from here either! Until recently the firm Pirbright had an animal health testing facility here, that’s gradually being turned into houses, but every time I saw the signpost for Compton on the A34 I always had the same thought, that the club would be perfect for the North Berkshire League.
Time after time I braved the M4/A34 intersection, but Compton were a Reading (now the Thames Valley Premier) League team, sat there with North Berkshire clubs just about in every direction around them. So you can imagine how pleased I was when they applied to switch over to the North Berks for this season. Apart from any other considerations, unlike the vast majority of the clubs in the NBFL, Compton is actually in Berkshire!
I’m not one to say too much at AGM’s but when another club asked how strong the Thames Valley League is, I did make an exception! It was a valid question, the Thames Valley League has got Step 7 status, the North Berks has lost there’s but Compton’s experience in their new league has illustrated neatly that although the FA may feel that the North Berks’ is the weaker, performances on the pitch don’t bear that out.
Coming into this game Compton were bottom and Harwell Village top. The visitors are a revival of a club that folded a few years ago. Unusually they’ve decided not to base themselves at their old home behind the Village Hall but are based at the Harwell Laboratories establishment pitch that used to host the now defunct Harwell International FC.
Compton’s home in Burrell Road is the typical village football set-up. There’s the village hall, a car park, then the football club’s changing rooms and kitchen. They’re a friendly bunch despite their struggles on the pitch, and I was greeted by,
“There’s tea and coffee in the kitchen, just help yourself!”
And let’s fact it, there are few better ways to endear yourself to a visitor than free tea, but I should add that I doubt that will be the case when we bring the North Berkshire Hop here! The real quirk here is the tiny stand at the half-way line. Apparently it was put there at the behest of the parish council and is there as a “Teenagers’ Shelter”, but I just wish the club would add a gable with the club logo on it!
One indisputable thing that the North Berks is good at is developing referees. The league is very proud of that Graham Scott has made it from officiating in the North Berks all the way to the Premier League. He’s not forgotten his roots either, and presented the trophies at the North Berks AGM, and continues to mentor local referees including the son of our referee here, Mark Bullock.
For me the toughest job in football is the referee when there’s no appointed assistants. You are on your own with little or no support, but Mr Bullock had an excellent game keeping an uncompromising game with quiet authority.
Whatever the level you watch the game, the difference between top and bottom is often subtle. One look at the teamsheet saw former Oxford United winger Paul Powell, now 37 playing for the visitors, but despite his presence there was very little between the two sides. Powell’s son Jack incidentally, now plays for Didcot Town. Compton had the mercurial Charlie London on the left wing; his cross for his team’s second goal was just about perfect but the plaudits will and should go to Harwell’s Gareth Fenton whose 13th, 14th and 15th goals of the season took the game beyond the hosts.
It was a highly satisfying afternoon out, and a credit to a league that remains keen to present itself well. And anyone who knows the North Berkshire League, knows that we don’t do nil-nil draws either….