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Wednesday 26th April 2017 ko 19.30

Oxfordshire FA Intermediate Cup Final

OXFORD CITY NOMADS 4 (Landers 80 90 115p Martei 99)

BERINSFIELD 2 (Palmer 53 Hinkin 60) Palmer sent off 70 (2nd booking) Hinkin sent off 105 (2nd booking)

Att c200 at Kidlington FC

It is a quirk that either of these sides play in this competition. If Berinsfield were to transfer from the North Berkshire League to the Oxfordshire Senior League then they’d appear in the Senior Cup, and if what is in effect Oxford City’s 3rd XI weren’t playing in a the Hellenic’s rebadged former reserve section, they’d be in the Junior Cup. 

Then there was Oxford City’s brush with bankruptcy to consider. They’d become part of business proposition fronted by Thomas Guerriero an American businessman. He seemed more interested in using the Oxford City name, and bolting on the word “University” as a means of promoting his distance learning business. He was jailed for 12 years in March 2016 for a $3.6M fraud, leaving Oxford City penniless. City chairman Colin Taylor tragically committed suicide in July, and in September a winding-up petition brought by HMRC was paid off at the last minute by a £200,000 donation by Oxford United, who will move all non first XI games to the new 3G pitch at Court Place Farm.

Berinsfield’s relationship with the Oxfordshire FA isn’t straightforward. An unhappy exist from the Oxon Senior League in 2007 and a brawl during a Junior Cup saw the club at a low ebb, having a year out, and then playing in the geographically unsuitable Reading League.

At this point I should nail my colours to the mast. I’m a North Berkshire League man, and the Berinsfield that re-entered the league a few years ago has worked hard to rid itself of the reputation it had gained. They hosted a North Berks Hop game in 2014 and have become the team you have to beat if you want to win the NBFL. The question I found myself asking was whether they’d be allowed to forget their past?

It was an interesting match-up, even if you weren’t aware of the history. There was Berinsfield’s close-knit team, all from the village, honed by simply playing games up against a much younger, faster City side, managed by former Oxford United, and Aldershot midfielder Scott Davis.

I’m sure that age and experience would have won Berinsfield the cup, but they kept racking up bookings. I’ve little doubt they blamed referee Grzegorz Kornasiewicz for that, and 7 Berinsfield bookings either points to a lack of discipline or poor refereeing. The problem for me was the yellow card was being used as the first tool for managing the game rather than the last. Max Palmer’s booking in the 15th minute set the tone. The challenge was a foul, but did it really need a booking? Of course when you set a precedent, you have to stick with it.

It became a case of Berinsfield looking set to win the cup, but only as long as they kept 11 men on the field. They’d forged a two-goal lead though Palmer and Mike Hinkin, but it was unquestionably the dismissal of Palmer that changed the game. Palmer claimed his challenge took the ball, Kornasiewicz said it was reckless, and issued Palmer’s second yellow card. I’ve watched Danniel Smith’s footage several times, and I think both parties have a point.

Of course if the referee had used a little discretion for Palmer’s first challenge….

From then on it became a question of whether the ten men could hang on. The trophy shows they couldn’t, but they came as close as they could. There were a mere 10 seconds left as Henry Landers lashed home from a corner to take the tie to extra time.

Berinsfield’s frustrations were obvious, and City dominated extra time, and Berinsfield’s exasperation was summed up by Mike Hinkin’s sending off, collecting his second booking for kicking the ball away after the awarding of a free kick against him. Again, it looked liked the letter of law being applied rather than the spirit. Hinkin had hardly sought to gain an advantage.

With nine tired men to play against, City rammed home the advantage and on the basis of extra time were worthy winners. At the end they celebrated as a group of Oxford City fans taunted the Berinsfield players, and it was fortunate that Scott Davis was there to shut up his club’s fans. I know Berinsfield well, they can take criticism, they’ve got well used to it over the years, but they will not put up with insults to their village.

It was a real curate’s egg of a game, congratulations to Scott and Oxford City’s youngsters, but everyone there will wonder who made the greatest contribution to the scoreline.

Normally I hate to see the losing side fail to attend the presentation, but Berinsfield’s decision to remain in the changing rooms looked wise under the circumstances. I turned to my fellow NBFL committeemen and asked, “So whose got the middle for the North Berks Charity Shield?” The answer was former EFL referee Steve Phipps for the tasty local derby between Berinsfield and Saxton Rovers. Did the NBFL know something the OFA didn’t?

 

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