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Wednesday 16th May 2012 ko 6.30pm

Oxon Senior League Division One

RIVERSIDE 11 (Green 14 Woodward 16 59 Howard 23 Haines 34 Andrew 56 77 O’Callaghan 40 50 Foot 54p Harriet 56)

LONG CRENDON 1 (Duke 71)

Att 5 (h/c)

Played at Cuttleslowe & Sunnymead Park, Oxford (North Oxford FC)

Entry FREE

Nothing for Sale

When aiming to watch a game in the OSL it does pay to be adaptable. The Football Traveller Guide has Riverside playing at Margaret Road, the home of the now defunct Quarry Nomads. That ground’s a short stroll from home, but I had quick dash back home to jump in the car when I found out that the game had been switched to Cutteslowe Park, home to North Oxford FC. From talking to the Riverside manager, it transpires that the club have now relocated to the pitches adjacent to the athletics stadium on the Horspath Road. That makes them virtually opposite to the Rover Cowley Ground, in Romanway. But, with the council having taken down the posts they were forced to switch the game.  I also discovered that goalkeeper Chris Harris, sent off for spitting at an opponent in the OSL Presidents Cup final, is now serving a 9 game ban. We agreed that was an appropriate penalty. https://laurencereade.wordpress.com/2012/05/07/muddy-waters/

As a small boy growing up in East Oxford, Cuttleslowe Park was a rare treat at the end of the number 2 bus route. There’s the paddling pool, the aviary, and the miniature railway, but the abiding memory was the feeling of space, the place is huge! I was completely unaware in those days of the presence of tennis, cricket, a measured mile, and at least 4 football pitches serviced by 2 pavilions. There is however a dark side to the area. When in the 1930’s council housing was built in Cutteslowe, the private estate to the west developed by Clive Saxton of the Urban Housing Company took great exception.

Saxton was afraid that his housing would not sell if so-called ‘slum’ dwellers were going to be neighbours, so in 1934, walls over two metres high and topped with spikes were built to separate them. In fact, the council tenants settled in well and soon raised a petition asking for the walls to be demolished. In 1938 the council pulled down the walls but had failed to take legal advice, and were sued by UBC, and the walls were soon rebuilt. Amazingly it took until 1959 for the walls to be finally demolished after the land on which the walls stood was bought by a compulsory purchase order.

At last I was able to attend a game without a coat, and enjoy the end-of-season sun. The game was played on Pitch 3, the furthest from the Lower Pavillion while a U16 game took place on Pitch 2. With Long Crendon as the visitors, rock bottom with only 4 points, and Riverside chasing the championship, a nil-nil draw was never likely. And yes the goals rained in as Riverside passed Crendon to death.

But here’s the thing, Crendon weren’t quite as bad as I’d expected. I’d watched them lose 4-10 on May 2nd https://laurencereade.wordpress.com/2012/05/02/t-e-a-m/ and they barely functioned as a team. Here, with players unavailable and no sign of their manager, they stuck to what most players know 4-4-2, and went down fighting. And frankly I’d rather watch that, than the shambles I saw 2 weeks ago. Perhaps surprisingly, my man of the match was Crendon keeper James Bartington who made several fine saves. There was a moment of humour when his opposite number Darren Kinch put in strong bid to take the penalty, but was quickly overruled!

The match was unobtrusively refereed by Tim Siret, the last ref to book me. I’ll always be grateful, as I’d have sent me off for the challenge in what proved to be my last game.

With a 10 goal lead, Riverside eased off and Crendon gained small consolation with Kieran Duke’s fine long-range effort. This roused the hosts to force home the eleventh and soon after I was able to stroll through the park, remembering childhood visits.