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Saturday 16th September 2017 ko 13.15

North Berkshire League Division One

HARWELL VILLAGE 1 (Churchouse 75) Tyler sent off 69 (2nd booking) P Powell missed penalty 89 


Att 117 at AEA Sports Ground, Chilton, near Harwell

Entry by Programme £4

I’m not sure we even changed postcode during our trip from the R.A.L. Ground, round the Science Park to the Atomic Energy Association Sports Ground, one or two even walked it! Once we’d got the first game organised in Chilton, it was an obvious choice to head here although I’m fairly sure one or two people misunderstood Harwell’s reason for playing here. 

Harwell Village, with a couple of brief absences been mainstays of the North Berkshire League for many years, but tend to be associated with the ground at the back of the Royal British Legion in the village. The AEA Ground was used by works team Harwell International, but they folded in 2014, and when Village found themselves in dispute with their landlords, they made the 2 mile move to Chilton. One or two hoppers may have thought this was me looking for another one-off ground to stage a game on, but it is Harwell’s permanent home I assure you!

It’s not hard to see why they didn’t need much convincing to make the move; the facilities are excellent and by reputation the pitch is one of the best of the NBFL. There was though a couple of things I needed to keep an eye on.

The first was exactly which division Harwell would be playing in? When I started planning this hop the NBFL had 5 divisions, but with Wallingford returning to the Hellenic League Kintbury moving sideways to the Wiltshire League and shockingly Burghclere folding altogether it became clear that there was sufficient clubs only for 4. A sad irony over the demise over Burgclere’s demise was that at the AGM in 2013 that saw them elected to the NBFL the only club to vote against them was Harwell International!

We on committee proposed the changes at a fiery AGM, the change was passed, but concerns were raised about which sides would play in which division? Harwell weren’t keen on promotion to the top flight after finishing the 2016/7 season 4th in Division 2, and the whole shake-up saw Grove Rangers fold, and Dorchester switch to the Oxford City FA League.

The other thing to ponder was my girlfriend Robyn’s family. They’re from South Bristol, and as soon as we started dating and found out I’m from Oxford assumed I’m posh,  so I hope I haven’t disappointed them! So we parked up the minibuses, walked across to the ground and the first thing I saw was the notice,

“Please keep off the Croquet Lawn!”

 Sometimes you’ve just got to take it on the chin!

As if to increase the air of gentility there was the end of an archery match too! During the Drayton game I’d received a call or two wondering whether this game would take place as they’d spotted the archers, and I should have trusted Alan Bertram more; it really didn’t necessitate my phone call to check.

Because from the moment I met the club’s reps at the planning meeting I knew I could trust the club to get the staging right. There was only one issue that got thrown up, and that was their programme. I’d arranged to collect the copies for advance ticket holders, so when Alan phoned me to say there was a problem I winced. The issue was that the printer couldn’t get the programmes to Harwell in time, so I offered to collect them from the printers myself, so I asked where I needed drive to?

” Belfast” said Alan!

Thankfully they found a more reliable, and more local printer, and the programme was the best of the hop.

It was also where I could finally begin to relax, the real ale sold well, the meat and veggie chilli will be the stuff of legend, and jaws began to drop once the team line-ups were posted. Because Harwell’s team is virtually a who’s who of local Hellenic and Southern League football.

The most eye-catching name is Paul Powell who played at Championship level for Oxford United and his son Jack who played in the FA First Round with Didcot Town last season, and they are part of a very long if heading towards veteran-status list! That was in contrast to Long Wittenham who was are extremely well-established in the NBFL’s top flight. On a personal level it was good to see LW’s Derek Meadham there, recovering after a bout of ill-health. He is a gentleman, and his club a pleasure to visit.

The game was the highest quality of the hop with Long Wittenham’s greater pace a good match for Harwell’s extra experience and guile. It was a gripping game, and I suspect one that Harwell would have won if they hadn’t started picking up bookings. It seemed inevitable that someone would pick up a second, and so it came to pass, Ross Tyler’s bout of verbals at referee Mark Niemirski earning him first use of the shower.

Even then Harwell should have won it. Paul Powell’s run into the box expertly drew the foul, but his penalty was well saved by Rob Heyday in the Long Wittenham goal. It was a game to grace any event, and I was pleased that Derek and Long Wittenham gained something from the game. But as much as I enjoyed myself, and I could have managed another bowl of that amazing chilli, it was time to head to our last game.