Saturday 11th April 2015 ko 14.30
North Berkshire League Division One
KINTBURY RANGERS 4 (Allsop 8 11 30 Thorp 30)
BERINSFIELD 5 (Ingram 18p 65p Palmer 41 D Murphy 59 Rawlings 84)
With my presence requested at the North Berkshire League Cup Final at Milton United later, my choice of afternoon games was rather limited. But serendipity can be wonderful thing, as I received word from Berinsfield assistant manager Nathan Frost that this game was going to be a shoot-out for the title. Yes I’d visited the ground as part of the Hellenic Hop in 2005 but this game had the potential to be a cracker. But great games on paper seldom turn to be classics do they?
The mathematics were that Kintbury had this game left, with Berinsfield two after this, and Rangers were 4 points clear. Both sides had lost only one league game all season, Berinsfield in the opening game to Ardington & Lockinge, whilst Kintbury’s loss was, almost unbelievably away at Watlington Town who finished rock-bottom! So a win for Kintbury would see them be reigned NBFL Champions for the second year running, and any other result would make Berinsfield hot favourites to win their first ever title.
NBFL chairman Leroy Paddock looked as assured as ever, but at Kintbury’s request the league trophy remained locked in his car, it didn’t do to tempt fate. Meanwhile Berinsfield manager Stephen Masterson was maintaining a casual front,
“Look mate, we’re the underdogs. We’re just a bunch of hillbillies, we don’t train, we get p*ssed, what have we got to lose?”
It was good psychology, and he is brilliant at dreaming up a good quote, but I suspect Berinsfield secretary Jackie Cullen’s feelings were more in tune with the occasion. She’s always nervous at games, but to add to the tension she’d spotted the referee was Steve Phipps, formerly on the Football League list, and with appointed linesman too (not usual in this league) it was clear that the league understood what was at stake.
I know Berinsfield very well, having them on a hop does that, so I decided to station myself on the far side with the Kintbury fans for the first half, it proved to be a good move.
The two top strikers in the North Berks are Berinsfield’s David Murphy (27 appearances- 44 goals) and Kintbury’s Charlie Allsop (23 appearances 36 goals) so it was easy to see this game as a shoot out between the two. And when Allsop spent most of the first half destroying the visiting defence, collecting a hat trick of the highest quality that looked a fair analogy. In contrast David Murphy shorn of service looked frustrated as Kintbury led 4-1, and all the visitors had to show for a torrid half hour was a Mark Ingram penalty, and a yellow card for Chris Murphy.
Much will be made of the second half, but for me the turning point was Max Palmer’s goal just before half-time. It gave Berinsfield the belief that a miracle could happen, and it was noticeable in the second half that Mark Ingram stepped forwards a yard or two. It frightened the Kintbury midfield (he frightens me sometimes!) and cut off the supply to Allsop and Shaun Thorp. At once the notion of a Murphy/Allsop shoot-out was ended.
David Murphy’s predatory instincts gained Berinsfield’s third, before another Mark Ingram penalty made it 4-4, and make no mistake that goal was where Kintbury’s title may well have foundered. It seemed inevitable when David Murphy’s drag-back found Brian Rawlings for the winner. It leaves Berinsfield needing two points to secure the title. That isn’t a gimme, those two games are both away, at Crowmarsh Gifford and at Wallingford, those two clubs will not roll over.
But that’s for the next few week or two, it was Berinsfield’s moment, and the celebrations were heartfelt, I strolled back to the car, smiling at one of those games it was a privilege to have witnessed.