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Sunday 18th December 2011. ko 10.30am (scheduled) 12.00pm (actual!)

Upper Thames Valley League Division 3A

FOREST HILL 1 (Gonzalez 50) Matthews missed pen 17

CHATSWORTH BUCCANEERS 1 (Davies 45)

Att 15 (h/c)

Entry FREE

Nothing for sale

The small Oxfordshire village of Forest Hill lies about 5 miles east of Oxford. If you’ve ever driven from Oxford to London then you’ve probably passed the place. The poet John Milton, courted his future wife Mary Powell at the now demolished Manor house. The architect George Gilbert Scott ( Midland Grand Hotel at St Pancras Station, the Albert Memorial ) redesigned the local church’s nave. It’s possible to see both the Beckley TV transmitter and Brill windmill.

The Forest Hill Recreation ground is to be found on the north-western tip of the village, on the B4027 Stanton Road. This bit was completely lost on referee Trevor Pitson, who as a late replacement for the injured Andrew Cotter got the wrong postcode and ended up in Great Milton, 8 miles away. He tried to contact the club, but the UTVL website had the wrong phone number. He’d returned back home to Faringdon by the time the club managed to contact him!

The advantage of this is that it gave a frosty pitch a chance to thaw. With the clubhouse having been destroyed in an arson attack in 2005, there was nowhere for the players to keep warm other than their cars, and I used the time to learn a little more. Forest Hill had a top flight UTVL side but the fire forced them off the ground, to Oxford’s Cutteslowe Park. The high fees charged by Oxford City Council proved to be too much, and the club folded after one season in exile.

This is the current club’s first season in existence and despite the name division 3A is as much the bottom division as 3B! Garsington based Chatsworth are having a dreadful season with just the one point so far.

The game turned out to be well worth the match-long wait as both sides used graft to make up what they lacked in skill. The memory I will have is the brilliance of the two goalkeepers Iain Locke for Forest Hill and Mike Webber for Chatsworth. Between them they produced 4 saves that a professional would be proud of. Webber’s reaction save to tip away a flicked header made up for a freezing conditions.

As much as anything else I enjoyed the company of two friendly clubs and some tremendous banter, particularly before the referee arrived.

“Well this ref can’t book us for a late challenge”

“The ref’s fee’s £30 lets go down the pub and drink it!”

You don’t get that in the professional game.