Tuesday 26th March 2019 ko 19.45
Hellenic League Division One East
ABINGDON TOWN 3 (M James 12 83 J James 45)
MILTON UNITED 2 (Powell 13 69) Beech sent off 90 (2nd Booking)
Entry & Programme £5
It all felt like a catch-up. I’d watched Abingdon Town play the final game of the North Berkshire League’s 2015/6 season, and I remember leaving Culham Road worrying for their future. I always got on with their chairman Tom Larman, but the club’s problems seemed too deep-seated for Tom to cope with on his own. The club failed to even register with the Berks & Bucks FA for the next season, and when Tom died a few months later it seemed that the area’s oldest club had been lost.
Town sat out the 2016/17 season, but were revived under the ownership of Jayson Lyon. The club entered Division 2 East of the Hellenic League and a big splash was made with talk a £250,000 investment including the refurbishment of the ground, and a march through the divisions. Sadly it was all bluster. Lyon was featured on BBC TV show “Inside Out” in September 2017 for non-payment of drivers associated with his courier firm and ended up being arrested for running an illegal waste disposal business – he was burning waste behind the ground. He was convicted last month and given a 6-month suspended sentence.
He resigned as Abingdon Town chairman late last year, and the club came within an inch of folding. The club’s board is now Secretary Brian Kirk, with new chairman Joe Bailey and vice chairman Dee Wilkins. Frankly the fact that they’ve made it through the season is a minor miracle and is of great credit to the three of them. The mess Lyon’s crimes left has all but been cleared up and they’ve managed to refit the bar and tidy up the stands too. The kitchen is the next project.
With a new board came a new team managed by former Oxford United goalkeeper Gareth Tucker, and while they finished second-from-bottom of the division it’s clear the club have galvanised behind Tucker, Kirk, Bailey and Wilkins. In fact Robyn’s reaction on seeing the ground for the first time summed it all up neatly. She said,
“How on earth was a ground this good in the North Berkshire League?”
And despite my connections to that league, she does have a point. But there’s something very endearing about how Abingdon Town are conducting themselves. Yes, life is still a struggle, but they are improving their position as and when they can, and that has taken this historic club and ground a long way since I saw them last.
In fact my only real issue was was who they were playing. I’ve had a soft spot for Milton United for a long time, not least as they shifted a Berks & Bucks Intermediate Cup tie to provide a precursor game to the final North Berks Hop back in the day. I remain grateful, and I’ll look forward to re-visiting Potash Lane when their new clubhouse is complete. Sometimes planning gain does work!
Here I suspect Milton will wonder how they didn’t win this, they were dominant for long periods of the game. But as I mentioned earlier there’s a sense of resolve about Abingdon Town now, and it was clear that although these 3 points will make no difference to them in terms of league position, the morale boost was a godsend.