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Saturday 17th December 2017 ko 14.00

Oxford City FA League

FLORENCE PARK 2 (Simpson 20p Foley 79)

CHEQUERS 4 (Constant 13 Ventriglia 14 Sherman 33 Thomas 90)

Att c25

Entry FREE

I do like a game in an area’s league of last resort; a league that’s at the bottom of the pecking order in its footprint. In Oxford city that’s the single division OCFA League, nominally a feeder the Oxon Senior League. 4 years ago it was struggling, down to just 5 teams, but a new committee and a lot of hard work have seen something of a renaissance in its fortunes. 

The league’s now at far more healthy 13 clubs including Dorchester who moved here after a difficult season in the North Berkshire League’s First Division. Remember Simeon’s cameo for a German touring side in Romania?  He plays for Headington Butchers, based out of the Butchers Arms who are in their second season in the league.

It’s a league for participants rather than spectators which does mean it isn’t straightforward to attend games. Since many games are played on council pitches games tend to get played where there’s availability, and on this cold Saturday the authorities issued a blanket postponement due to snow/ice/whatever.

But Florence Park’s home is different. If you’re from Oxford and over 30 you’ll know this place as Peers School, now it’s the Peers Campus at the Oxford Academy. You may remember Berinsfield playing OUP Reserves at Oxford Spires Academy ? Don’t  confuse the two, that’s in Cowley, this is close to Littlemore, and yes that is Oxford United you can see in the background here.

Florence Park were formed for this season, from a district of Oxford near Cowley, that as a very small boy I used to hear Welsh been spoken; the 1970’s saw a lot of people move from Wales to work at the car works nearby. Seeing the former base of London Welsh RUFC behind felt slightly ironic. I wonder if the now-bankrupt rugby club had have managed to tap into those other Welsh exiles, they’d have seen some success during their ill-fated stint in Oxford.

They’ve set up base at Peers, not at the pitch you can see from the ring road, this facility is behind the school, built for this season on the site of Littlemore RUFC’s old pitch. They haven’t moved far, just behind the near goal, and were playing during our game.

The tie saw top play second, and with the possibilty of a fiesty encounter, the league appointed a strong referee, by both name and nature. Mark Strong had a superb game, and yes, there were moments when tempers could have spilled over.

As though is so often the case at the lower levels the winning side did so because they could put more of their better players out on the day. Chequers are based at the Chequers pub in Headington Quarry, just a few hundred yards from another pub with a team in the OCFA League- Masons Arms. The pub is run by former Oxford United and Oxford City forward Steve Jenkins, although he isn’t involved here.

Pace won this game, mainly through former OUP and AFC Hinksey forward Jelroy Constant. Park had to sit deep to stop him running riot which gave Chequers the space to pass and move. Constant scored the first, with Martino Ventriglia’s 20 yard blast following a minute later but Florence Park quickly responded with Ryan Simpson’s penalty. Kelvin Sherman resinstated the two-goal lead and Chequers should have put the tie to bed between then and half time, but teamwork was slowly replaced by individualism.

The result was that when Connor Foley reduced the arrears the worry in the Chequers ranks was obvious. Could Florence Park steal an unlikely point? They certainly had the chances to, but with the last move of the game they sent their keeper Pat Gaughan up for a corner, only to concede possession and he could only chase after Denel Thomas as the forward broke clear to apply the coup de grace.