Saturday 14th February 2015 ko 13.30
Oxfordshire FA Intermediate Cup Semi-Final
OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS RESERVES 3 (Bicknell 43 58 Clarke 87)
BERINSFIELD 5 (Palmer 22 Ingram 54 62 Saunders 97 D Murphy 108) Hammond sent off 72 (2nd booking)
Att 25 at Oxford Spires Academy, Glanville Road, Oxford
I should start by declaring a vested interest in this game. Berinsfield play in the North Berkshire League, I organise that league’s annual groundhop, and I have a lot of friends both at the league, and at Lay Avenue. If you are looking for an unbiased view for this game I fear you’ve stumbled on to the wrong blog! Apart from anything else Berinsfield seem rather proud of the fact the hop game they staged still holds the record for the highest attendance in North Berks’ hop history- 251. I would point out though that ever since I’ve been trying to beat it!
The competition is for clubs just below senior status in Oxfordshire and therein lies the intrigue. The two best leagues below Hellenic League level in the county are the Oxon Senior League and the North Berks, with the Witney and District an honourable third. The Oxon Senior holds Step 7 status, so their clubs’ first XI’s go into the Oxon Senior Cup, but since the North Berks lost their Step 7 status a few years ago their Oxfordshire sides go into the Intermediate Cup.
In the final analysis the arrangement means that Oxon Senior sides get to play Hellenic opposition and lose, while the North Berks sides get to enter a competition they can win, as I watched Berinsfield do back in 2013 (report here) and Berry welfare officer Jackie will no doubt enjoy seeing her photo once again!
On the face of it a tie between OUP Firsts and Berinsfield would have looked a better match-up, but at this level sometimes the difference between reserve and first team can be blurred! OUP’s reserves play in Division Two of the Oxon Senior League.
The other source of intrigue was the ground being used. The tie was scheduled to be played at OUP’s home, Jordan Hill, but the groundsman postponed all football for three weeks due to the state of the pitch. Rather than switch the tie to Lay Avenue it was decided to play the game at the Oxford Spires Academy, due it seems to a OUP committee member being a teacher at the academy. Mind you, when do Berinsfield get a home draw anyway?
Whatever the rights and wrongs, the facility is excellent despite the mole-hills, and the unusual location, no side plays here, attracted a few hoppers, me included. Thankfully we were treated to an excellent game in the cold and showers.
I expected Berinsfield to be far too strong for OUP until I saw the Berinsfield line-up. With their reserves also playing the squad looked thin, with just the two substitutes one of which was manager Stephen Masterson. With OUP featuring the likes of Mark de la Coze, who’s played Hellenic League football with Letcombe, the sides were far better matched than I’d imagined.
Still Berinsfield’s midfield featured the likes of Mark Ingram and Chris Murphy, the latter who is still trying the score from the kick-off routine that worked so spectacularly in 2012 in this competition, in fact here’s the Oxford Mail’s report! Up front brother David Murphy’s goals have created many wins out of losses but on this occasion it was him who added the finishing touch to their win.
And they really had to fight for it too. Despite controlling the game for the vast majority of the game OUP had the happy knack of finding a way back into the game, twice through good play, Ellis Bicknell’s two late runs found no answer from the Berinsfield defence, and once through a goalkeeping error.
There was some lovely football to watch too. Mark Ingram deserved his two goals, his erudite passing was at the heart of most good things that Berinsfield did. When Luke Hammond was dismissed for two quick bookings, I honestly thought Berinsfield would lose. Clarke’s shot was adjudged to have crossed the line, much the consternation of Simon Matthews in the Berinsfield goal, and the Berry body language at full-time looked forlorn, even Mark Ingram looked tired.
I’m not sure how Stephen Masterson roused his troops, but rouse them he did. I’d phoned North Berks’ press officer Phil Annets to tell him to expect the worst, put the phone down and Luke Saunders promptly restored Berinsfield’s lead! Tired players found extra energy and the celebrations were heartfelt when Ingram’s through ball was expertly despatched by David Murphy to seal the victory. As Stephen Masterson put it afterwards, “He’d have been a pain…. if he hadn’t have scored!”
The final with be on Thursday, 23 April 7-45 KO, at Kidlington FC and the opposition will be Oxford City Nomads Development. They are, in all but name, Oxford City’s 3rd XI, and ply their trade in the Hellenic League Division Two West. How that former reserve division fits into the scheme of things locally is another story altogether. What I do know is that Berinsfield will be out in force once again…..