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Tuesday 30th January 2018 ko 19.45

Oxfordshire Senior Cup Quarter Final

EASINGTON SPORTS 1 (Hill 11)

BANBURY UNITED 2 (Johnson 19 Wise 44)

Att 305 (Ground Record)

Entry & Programme £5

I spent 7 happy (well the first 6) years living in Banbury, and me being me I saw a fair amount of time at both Easington Sports, and at Banbury United’s Spencer Stadium. The latter is still my favourite ground in Oxfordshire. I don’t think anyone would dispute that Easington are the town’s second club but what has happened at Addison Road has been little short of miraculous. 

Banbury United were and are the town’s Southern League club while Sports graduated from the Oxon Senior League to the Step 6 Hellenic League Division One in 1971. They’ve always played in that league’s lowest tier mainly due to the facilities at Addison Road.

The problem was always obvious, the ground lies in the middle of the Easington housing estate so developing the ground to fulfil ground grading requirements, especially floodlights looked impossible. I remember the Hellenic Hop visiting in 2005 and I saw just how hemmed in the ground is amongst the houses and thought a return to the OSL would be on the cards as soon as the Hellenic reached a full complement of floodlit clubs.

Fortunately for Easington, that never happened and this season they’ve managed to do what I and others didn’t think possible, and get floodlights and install a stand. It secures their future in the Hellenic and this season they look well-placed for promotion, now that elevation is at last possible. Yes, there’s still work to be done, and there are restrictions on the new lights’ use, but the big leap forward has been made.

The Oxfordshire Senior Cup is an odd beast. The clubs at southern end of the county are still affiliated to the Berks and Bucks FA; the 1974 boundary changes seem to have completely forgotten football in these parts. Then there’s the rule that any club that plays at Southern/ Isthmian Level or above gets an automatic bye until the quarter-final. That worked fine when Oxford United, Banbury United and Oxford City were the only qualifying clubs. Now you can add Thame United, North Leigh, Kidlington into the mix too and you get the situation where 22 clubs were asked to play each other over 3 rounds, chasing 2 quarter-final -spots. It needs attention, and I know the the question has been asked of the OFA.

But this wasn’t an evening for examination of the rules and regulations. It was a celebration of all that’s being achieved in the Easington district of the town. Local  radio set themselves up by the dugouts, and a record attendance saw one half of Banbury play off against the other.

The away win was to be expected, particularly as United put out a more or less full strength side. What wasn’t was how well Easington coped with opposition 3 divisions higher than themselves. They deservedly led briefly before United found their feet on a difficult surface and swung the tie in their favour with two goals before half time. The second half saw the sides slug it out as equals as the rain began to fall.

In the end I suspect Easington won’t mind losing this one. This isn’t a cross-town rivalry with any great heat. The big crowd and revenue was a bonus but for me this game was all about the little club tucked amongst the houses shouting out that after years of not being able to progress they’re ready to fly. Just watch them go!