Thursday 24th July 2014 ko 19.30
ABINGDON TOWN 1 (Lightwood 75)
OXFORD UNITED XI 10 (O’Dowda 16 Long 27 52 56 Roberts 32 45 Bevans 35 Culley 64 Hawtin 87)
Entry & Programme £5
So Oxford United’s development squad ran up 10 goals against a North Berkshire League outfit, and genuinely that isn’t the story at all. In Oxfordshire few clubs have fallen as rapidly and as far as Town in recent years. I remember seeing Town playing in the Isthmian League Division One (then just 2 promotions from the Football League) but now find themselves, in theory, seven promotions from their guests’ status. But where did it all go wrong?
In simple terms, its economics and location. The club was formed in 1870 and worked its way through the North Berks League, via the Spartan League, to The Isthmian. Crowds are a problem, and since 1946 there’s been Abingdon United to consider too. And the ground, Culham Road is a problem too. It may hold 4,000, and for me is the best non-league ground in Oxfordshire, but its right by the Thames and that means it floods regularly. That’s happened during each of the last two seasons, economically strangling the club.
The result was that at the end of last season Town finished rock bottom of the Hellenic League Premier Division for the second year in succession and very nearly folded. The decision was made to drop down back to the North Berkshire League and regroup with a new committee headed by Thomas Larman. He approached Oxford United to help raise money for the club, and in sending the development squad they gave the local players a sporting chance whilst giving the club a means of pulling in a crowd.
And on a warm Thursday night they certainly got that crowd, giving the club a real boost. Watched by the North Berks League committee, as well as unsuccessful OUFC takeover consortium leader Charlie Methven, Town gave an Oxford United side featuring 3 players with first team experience a good game until they ran out of steam and the youngsters started to run in the goals.
It didn’t matter too much, it was a good workout for Oxford, Town showed enough to suggest they’ll be a force in their new league, and no doubt the bumper crowd helped the finances.
We’re going to try to add to that help a little by including Town as a bonus game on the Friday before the North Berkshire Hop. So on 19th September ko 19.30 Abingdon Town will play a North Berks League Division One fixture against local rivals Saxton Rovers, themselves just a few hundred yards downstream. We hope that both groundhoppers and local football fans will support this event and help the club, and see what promises to be a highly competitive game in to the bargain. For those interested in such things, a programme will be produced, and while we can’t hope to get a crowd as large as this, we hope to get enough people there to give the club a significant boost.