Saturday 9th April 2016 ko 14.30
North Berkshire League Division Two
TURNPIKE SPORTS 1 (Brookes 90)
STANFORD-IN-THE-VALE 1 (McCarthy 8)
Att 24 at Pitch 5, Henwick Worthy Recreation Ground, Thatcham
I remember when Thatcham-based Turnpike Sports applied succcessfully to join the North Berkshire League. It was 2012 and I’m sure one or two others at the AGM like me raised an eyebrow and wondered where on earth they were from! They were formed in 2007, formerly Thatcham Town’s reserves, but splitting away to form their own club. They transferred out from the Reading, now the Thames Valley Premier League to the NBFL and were placed in Division 4 but won two championships in the last two seasons to get where they are now.
But this fixture was far more relevant to Stanford-in-the-Vale. They too have been promoted since 2013 when the North Berks Hop took on their 1-all draw with Blewbury in Division 3. They needed a win here to all but guarantee promotion and top-flight football for next season.
I’d heard Henwick Worthy described as “Like Hackney Marshes,” and whilst there aren’t anywhere near as many as pitches as at the fabled home of Sunday Football, it is very well-appointed if rather open. It was a pleasure to meet referee Mark Niemirski and small world that it is, he has refereed with the Western League’s General Secretary Mark Edmonds, another league whose hop I help organise!
He, like both teams had an excellent Saturday afternoon. Stanford looked like easy winners when Kieran McCarthy gave them an early lead, but Turnpike dug deep as the the finishing line came into sharp focus and Stanford froze. You could almost read the final page of the script as a free kick was conceded just outside of the Stanford box, and there was Nick Brookes to lift a free kick over the wall and in, with virtually the last kick of the game.
It was a real choker for Stanford, but it will I suspect be a temporary delay to their elevation. Stanford last played in the NBFL’s top flight in 2000, their return is long overdue.