Tuesday 11th May 2014 ko 18.45
North Berkshire League Division 3
BURGHCLERE 2 (Franklin 55 Kirkham 90)
KINTBURY RANGERS RESERVES 3 (Ramos 34 Allsop 40p 80p)
I had a choice of two games that would give me somewhere new to visit, but when Radley switched their game to Sutton Courtenay (the team is becoming Sutton Courtenay for next season), I blasted down the A34 to the pretty Hampshire village through a downpour. I remember attending the North Berks AGM when Burghclere were elected. One side, no longer in the league, objected that the club were too far away to travel to, despite being within the league’s famous stipulation of being within 20 miles of Steventon Green. And let’s be honest, the trip is straightforward, a blast down the A34, turn left then follow the road for half a mile. And what’s at the end of your journey is well worth the effort of getting here.
Burghclere is probably most famous for being the nearest settlement to High Wood, home of the rabbit warren immortalised in Richard Adams’ novel “Watership Down,” and the Sandham Memorial Chapel, now owned by the National Trust, houses art by British Neo-Primitives painter Stanley Spencer, and is Grade I listed. It sums up another of those beautiful English villages I’ll never get bored with visiting.
The Sports Ground on Harts Lane is very much in the same mould as the rest of the village. A wooden pavilion designed for cricket (in abeyance here) and a tree-lined pitch make this ground a wonderful place, both to watch a game and point a camera. I’ll love bringing, in due course, the North Berks hop here. Two good sides too, with Burghclere champions, and Kintbury needing a win to guarantee runners-up spot. I enjoyed both clubs’ company, and it was good to catch up with the visitors who I visited when they hosted a Hellenic Hop game back in 2005. They resigned from the Hellenic in 2010 on financial grounds, and have found life much more straightforward in the North Berks. They’re second in Division One with games in hand over Ardington & Lockinge, and the League title would be a fine reward for a club that wouldn’t give up. Sadly their floodlights are no longer up to staging a game, so we won’t be able to feature them on a future hop.
It was one of those game that utterly belied its status, nominally 9 levels below the Football League. Both sides passed and moved expertly under the watchful gaze of young referee Scott Southby. He’s part of a real success story for the North Berks, they are very good at recruiting and nurturing young referees. I saw Scott last year at the equally beautiful and now defunct Warborough, click here, he was excellent then and was as good here, in a game where the level of commitment could easily have spilled over into something unpleasant.
Both sides could have won it, the draw would have been fairer, but two loose tackles leading to two converted penalties won the game for Kintbury. They celebrated at the final whistle; in truth both sides had just cause to celebrate a highly successful season in my favourite local league.