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Saturday 21st April 2012 ko 2.30pm

North Berkshire League Division 3


WANTAGE TOWN A 6 (Stevens 11 28 75 Bowsher 37 Hummel 40 Goodchild 54)

Att 36 (h/c)

Entry FREE

No Programme

Tea-in-a-mug 40p

The West Oxfordshire village of Stanford-in-the-vale is best known as the birthplace of poet Pam Ayers. I drove in via Pusey and what a beautiful part of the world it is, with the stone cottages set against a backdrop of the White Horse Hills in the background. I think its part of human nature that we tend to marvel at places we’ve travelled long distances to see, and ignore what’s on our doorstep.

Apart from the obvious attractions of a game of football, I wanted to visit Stanford as its the only ground provisionally on the 2012 NBFL hop I knew nothing about. With the hop visiting divisions at a level never featured on an organised hop, I wanted to be available to help the clubs make the most of next September 22nd.

I met club secretary Simon Jackson, and he told me all about the club. They’ve no qualms about accomodating 200 or so hoppers. The ground is enclosed, so they’ll have someone on each gate with a box of programmes, they’ve got a huge barbeque set so that’ll be handy, and since the White Horse Brewery is in Stanford, there’ll be real ales to try. It should be a great day out for everyone.

What a charming ground Cottage Road is too. The clubhouse is good enough to attract drinkers who aren’t there to watch Stanford, and the pitch is railed on the near side. There’s trees on two side, which proved to be helpful in the midst of a hail storm! I was struck by how well this Oxford United fan was well-treated by what appeared to be a club of Swindon Town fans, although I’m bound to point out that Stanford play in OUFC yellow and blue!

Simon had told me that Stanford were going into this game with 6 players missing due to injury and suspension, and that Wantage’s A team is very strong. Incidentally they play at the Wantage Leisure Centre, and not at Alfredian Park, so there’s somewhere else so me to visit! Simon’s fears were justified as Wantage ran out easy winners. Centre half James Stevens collected a hat-trick as Stanford failed to convince when defending any form of cross. James Bowsher, Ben Hummel and Andy Goodchild piled on the misery as the visitors were first to everything and had the better ideas.

But let’s not dwell too much on the game. I drove away afterwards, thinking “What a lovely little club” and “That’s club I don’t have to worry about next September.”

I took a little detour to visit Uffington United, as its only around 4 miles away. That’s set to be the finale of the hop under their lights. Forget their league position, they’re just as ready for the crowds as Stanford, and you’ll be amazed at the ground.