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Monday 6th August 2012 ko 6.30pm

Faringdon Thursday Memorial Cup First Round

LOWER STRATTON 3 (Doult 12 Hitchman 33p Grimley 44)

STANFORD-IN-THE-VALE 3 (Mayall 28 62 67)

No Extra time, Stanford won 4-3 on penalties

Att 15 (h/c)

Played at Meadowcroft Recreation Ground, Addison Crescent, Lower Stratton, Swindon

Entry FREE

Nothing for sale

The roots of this competition lie in the 1930’s and the early closing of local shops on a Thursday thus creating an ideal opportunity to play football. In 1936 a team was formed in Faringdon to enter the local, “Oxfordshire Thursday League,” but after the Second World War the returning players found that things had changed and there was now no early closing on a Thursday. Their response was to use the remaining £30 in the club coffers to purchase a trophy to remember their six fallen comrades. An old horse-racing trophy was rebadged, and the competition was first played in 1951. For those visiting Faringdon Town’s Tucker Park, remember the fallen six, including Michael Tucker who gives the ground its name. When you use the excellent clubhouse, note also the fundraising that the cup has done to help build and maintain it. It is a fitting tribute to those six young men.

These days the competition starts in pre-season for the first two rounds, then goes into abeyance until April when the semi-finals and final are played. It’s those three games which are still played on a Thursday, at Tucker Park. The early rounds are interesting as you do tend to see clubs from different local leagues playing each other. As Ernie Tilley, competition secretary put it, “It’s a bit like the European Cup in that respect!”

For the groundhopper there was the additional bonus of Lower Stratton playing the game away from their home of Grange Road, due to drainage work. There’s not a lot to like about Meadowcroft, an open expanse with room for two pitches in the middle of a rather unattractive estate. Still, the game more than made up for it!

The game pitched the Wiltshire League second tier against the third level of the North Berkshire, and I was immediately introduced to someone I’ve quietly admired for some time. When Appleton Stars were reformed and entered the NBFL one of the movers and shakers was Paul Nuckley. He’s a left-midfielder by position, but spent most of his time playing in goal for the Stars, presumably because no-one else was available. That became a poisoned chalice as in 3 years the club have gained 9 points and conceded 453 goals. To make matters worse, a referee decided that Paul wasn’t allowed to wear his glasses, a problem he resolved by getting a pair of prescription goggles made. Its people like Paul that have kept the Stars going through some terrible beatings, but as he put it, “We just like playing football.” In fact, the reason he’s now playing for Stanford is that he wants to go back to his preferred position in midfield!

His presence will be useful to Stanford, who seem to have lost most of the team that I watched lose at home at the back-end of last season. Unsurprising they took time to gel, and found themselves a goal down courtesy of Jack Doult’s strike. The game settled down to an entertaining mix of attempts at a passing game, and when that frequently failed, an enthusiastic bash forward! Stanford’s saviour was Tyrun Mayall whose turn of pace, and accuracy in front of goal gave Stanford an unlikely draw at full-time.

Sensibly we were spared extra-time, and while referee Richie Bush was setting up the penalty shoot-out both sets of officials admitted to mixed feelings. Yes, they’d both like to win, but knew that the winner would be facing either Faringdon Town or Clanfield 85 in the second round, either of which would be likely to give them a fair hiding.

“A bit like the Chinese badminton players?” I suggested, thinking about the doubles players in the Olympics who were disqualified for not trying, so as to engineer a more favourable draw. They laughed and nodded, so I wonder what Stanford will make of their victory? Mind you, I bet Tyrun Mayall fancies his chances!