Tuesday 21st December 2016 ko 19.45
FA Trophy 2nd Round Replay
NORTH LEIGH 1 (Cook 89p)
SOUTH PARK 3 (Lavery 29p Quartey 62 O’Sullivan 81)
Back in the day I used to regularly drive along the A4095 between Witney and Woodstock. With psyche like mine that added up to finding out whether each village I passed through had a football club, and where they played. It didn’t take long to pay the grounds a visit. There was Witney Town who played in the Southern League, then as you headed towards Woodstock, there were no end of grounds to visit.
There’s Freeland, doing well in the Oxon Senior League, and Hanborough in the Witney & District before you reach (Old) Woodstock Town in the Hellenic but utterly stymied by their inability to get floodlights. These days Witney are defunct, with their old Marriotts Stadium recently demolished leaving perennial Witney & District League champions West Witney as the top team in town.
But however unlikely it seemed back then, these days North Leigh are unquestionably the biggest club in the area, and let’s face it, Nor Lye’s ground in the grounds of Eynsham Park was always the most beguiling, assuming you didn’t miss the entrance tucked away between the trees! I remember the day they first won the Hellenic League, with a fair smattering of ex-Witney Town players, the little ground with the coach seats behind the goal positively rocked.
It’s my loss that I hadn’t returned until now, and whilst much has changed, the clubhouse has been extended, and there’s a triple “Arena” stand to keep the ground graders happy but the wonderful view of Eynsham Hall remains.
If there was ever a game to play the place another visit this was it. A straight shoot-out of the right to play away at Tranmere Rovers was a fine incentive, and I fancied North Leigh’s chances not least because they featured two ex-Oxford United forwards Jamie Cook and Aaron Woodley.
Sadly for them, it was a current Oxford United player that started the rot for the hosts. Goalkeeper Manny Agboola is on work-experience here but once he conceded the softest of penalties to open the scoring for South Park, the visitors never looked back.
At the finale South Park celebrated but I suspect that when the pain of disappointment recedes there’ll be a feeling of quiet satisfaction. Because all those years ago when I missed the entrance to the ground noone would have thought a game like this could ever have taken place. The question is how far can this tiny club rise?