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Tuesday 28th April 2015 ko 18.45

North Berkshire League Division One

CROWMARSH GIFFORD 3 (Woods 10 Sandiford 27 Joe Nathanielz 73)

BERINSFIELD 4 (Ingram 41 Osbourne 53 D Murphy 57 62)

Att 76

Entry FREE

Nothing for sale

I’m sure some of you wonder how I pick my fixtures, well this one did rather leap out of the page. Firstly I hadn’t been back to Crowmarsh since they staged their hop game in August. They’d got the biggest attendance of any hop game that weekend, and staged the game quite beautifully, including producing a programme that would put professional clubs’ issues to shame. Sadly their success on that day hasn’t been replicated on the pitch and sadly they’d been relegated the previous Saturday. So I did want to catch up with the Nathanielz family and both thank them and commiserate in equal measure.

And of course there was the Berinsfield factor too! I suspect that over the last 3 years we’ve been good for each other, they making an outsider feel welcome, and they producing a memorable hop game that produced nearly as many cakes as spectators! I’d watched the frankly unbelievable game at Kintbury where the hosts needed to win to seal the title, had led 4-1 after 30 minutes, only for Berinsfield to win 5-4! As manager Stephen Masterson could have said, “Not bad for a bunch of hillbillies!”

The upshot of that game was that Berinsfield needed two more points (although goal difference in effect made that one) to take the title from two away games, here and Wallingford. They hadn’t played a league game in that 10 day spell, their two games seeing them beat Kintbury all over again in the North Berks Cup semi-final, then an agonising loss on penalties to Oxford City Normads Development in the Oxon Intermediate Cup final.

You just knew that half of Berinsfield would turn up for this, and the one-liners were flying and Rob Tyler’s line about a well-known North Berkshire town being the “Bronx of the Vale” produced an especially loud belly-laugh! There was of course one nervous face, and my regular reader knows that was Berry secretary Jackie Cullen. Even with partner Brian Honer there too, I do wonder how she manages to put herself through watching her village’s games week after week.

And let’s be honest here, Berinsfield really don’t help Jackie’s nerves. Kintbury was a nerve-jangler, and Berinsfield repeated the exercise here. The starting line-up was shorn of both Mark Ingram (working late) and top scorer David Murphy (ankle). The masterplan was to use either only if strictly necessary. 2-0 down and 37 minutes in was deemed worrying enough so on came Ingram, who took precisely 4 minutes to reduce the arrears.

Daniel “Ozzy” Osbourne equalised after the re-start, but Berinsfield weren’t happy to rely on a superior goal difference of 9, so on came David Murphy in the 55th minute. Now if I thought Mark Ingram made a quick impact, then the league’s top goalscorer decided to better him, scoring in just TWO minutes, then the winner 5 minutes later!

Of course Berinsfield being Berinsfield were not going to make their lives easy, Joe Nathanielz scored for Crowmarsh to make brother Josh comment, “If only we’d played like this for the rest of the season, we’d have never been relegated.” It created a nervous last few minutes but as soon as the final whistle sounded the celebrations for Berinsfield’s first NBFL championship since 1983 (although the Oxon Senior League was won in 2005) were both loud and heartfelt.

They’ll play twice more this season, once at Wallingford in the league, then at Abingdon United against great rivals Saxton Rovers in the North Berks Cup Final on 9th May, ko 7.00pm. As for Crowmarsh that’s the end of what has been a difficult season, I hope they can regroup in Division Two, they were a wonderful host club for us back in September.