Saturday 12th January 2013 ko 13.30
Reading Senior Cup 2nd Round
WOODLEY TOWN 3 (Cripps 14 Edwards 53p Elmore 73og)
NEWBURY FC 1 (Shaw 35)
Att 15 (h/c)
Now I’m back in Oxford, my local league, is I suppose the Hellenic, which covers clubs 5 and 6 promotions from the Football League, from West London to the Welsh border. There are several Woodleys in the UK, this one lies on the A4 on the outskirts of Reading. It’s the home town of TV star Chris Tarrant, and comedy actor Felix Bowness, and the site of the long closed Miles Aircraft Factory.
It had made copious use of the aerodrome that had sprung up in the late 1920’s and visitors such as Charles Lindberg, and Amy Johnson tested the latest planes here. On 14th December 1931 Douglas Bader lost both his legs at the aerodrome attempting some low-flying aerobatics. His log rather laconically reads,
“Crashed slow-rolling near ground. Bad show.”
Woodley’s first eleven have long since moved away, and are now based around 2 miles away at East Park Farm, in Charvil. According to the club, the changing rooms are better, but it’s fair to say that this is not a good example of a ground for hosting step 6 football. The pitch is fenced on two sides, roped on another, with a ditch on the fourth side behind a goal. It does the job, just but the club may just have found a way to improve their lot.
Wokingham Borough Council want to build a new school on the land, and the club feel that planning laws will mean that in order to move them, the authorities will have to build them a ground that will be suitable for their Step 6 status. That would involve providing floodlights, a stand, and all enclosed, none of which are the case at East Park Farm at the moment. Until the then, the club are quietly settling into their league, comfortably mid-table, and are linking together the local football teams under their own umbrella, so if someone wants to play locally, there’s a Woodley Town team for them.
I rather took to them, and this would have been a hugely enjoyable game had it not been for the weather! When the temperature is just above zero, and a crosswind blowing the occasional flake of snow into the faces of the brave few watching, this wasn’t one for the faint-hearted.
If the league table was to be believed this game should have been a fairly straightforward away win. Newbury play a division higher, in the Hellenic Premier, but as is often the case the difference at this level of football is often the facilities rather than the playing standards. There was the also the added factor of the fact that Newbury are managerless, former Tottenham, Crystal Palace, and Sheffield United defender David Tuttle leaving a day or two earlier.
Newbury looked a dispirited bunch, and it was of little surprise when Woodley took the lead, Sam Cripps stabbing home from a corner. Newbury did rouse themselves enough to equalise through Bradley Shaw, and it did raise the spectre of extra-time in the freezing cold, as I nursed a coffee during half time.
The break seemed to benefit Woodley more, and the second half saw more or less total home domination, and more and more away frustration, as the tackles flew in and the dissent increased. Nick Edwards tucked away a penalty that saw goalkeeper Shaun Coker booked for dissent, before a disputed corner saw Barry Elmore booked, again for dissent, then watched in horror as Warren Baxter’s shot from the corner hit him wrong-footing Coker completely and spinning in.
It was a giant-killing by definition, but at no point did it feel like one, I scuttled back to the car to warm up, but despite the weather and lack of facilities, I came to a surprising conclusion as I drove along the old A4 coaching route. I’d enjoyed myself far more at this friendly community club than I’d dared to hope for, just two hours previously.