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Saturday 11th May 2016 ko 18.00

North Berkshire Cup Final

DRAYTON 1 (Dennis 87p) 

SAXTON ROVERS 2 (Stanley 7 Parry 19)

Att 469 @ Abington United FC

Entry & Programme £4

I sat having a meal in the Boundary House with the rest of the NBFL’s committee before heading over the road to the Northcourt. As ever it was a convivial hour or so before the job in hand, making the final and most important game of the NBFL season run like clockwork.

Like grassroots football in general it had been a testing season for the North Berks, with teams struggling to field a side. Our War Memorial Cup Final was won by a side destined to fold without playing another game, citing a lack of players against a side who chose to switch to the Hellenic’s Division Two for next season as they didn’t want to play in our Division One. As I type we’ve got our AGM tomorrow and the expectation is that we’ll be rationalising down to 3 divisions, it wasn’t long ago we had 5…

That’s no reflection on anyone involved in the NBFL, we still are a vibrant league, and we could so easily be the Andover & District League who’ve gone into abeyance with their 6 remaining teams playing next season in the Hampshire Premier League. One of those is Kingsclere, once of the North Berks, and the club who saw the league’s famous “20 miles from Steventon” rule relaxed to 25. Well until they left anyway!

But for all the troubles unquestionably on Planet North Berkshire, this has been Saxton Rovers’ season. In recent years the “Saky/Berry” (Saxton/Berinsfield) rivalry has tended to have lent towards the team from Laye Avenue, but Saky bit back this season, winning the league by 18 points from their great rivals and beating them 6-0 in the North Berks Cup semi-final. They also won the Faringdon Thursday Cup, the NBFL Charity Shield, and their reserves won the NBFL’s Nairne Paul Cup. Could they cap it all with their fourth trophy of the season?

Few gave Drayton any chance whatsoever. After the drubbing Saxton gave Berinsfield what hope did Pete Ivey and his team from Division Two. Now as a committee man I’m not meant to take sides. Here it wasn’t easy, Pete and his crew of friends in onesies did a wonderful job on the final North Berks Hop at the Diamond Light Source, and there’s always the British habit of rooting for the underdog. I greatly appreciated Pete coming over for a chat before the game but I suspect that my feelings mirrored that of many there who simply hoped that we’d get a competitive game. There were so many reasons not to want Drayton to be on the wrong end of a hiding.

It didn’t look promising early on. Saxton Rovers raced into a 2 goal lead and I winced for my friend Pete. But I know Pete’s made of stern stuff, and his team dug deep, possibly deeper than they’ve ever dug before and as the second half wore on they gave the champions a real game and if only they’d have scored a little earlier who knows what might have happened?

So Saxton’s great achievement will no doubt be talked about for years to come. They won everything they could, bar the Berks and Bucks Senior Trophy (they lost to Hellenic Wallingford Town) and they celebrated in a cloud of champagne and red smoke. I took my photos and was quietly leaving the pitch when someone else called out my name.

That was David Murphy, now of Didcot Town, but latterly of Berinsfield. Perhaps he was there to simply to watch a game of football, or was that his village’s way of saying, “Enjoy your moment Saky, but next season the battle continues.”

And don’t you dare miss it.