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Saturday 14th September 2019 ko 16.30

Witney & District League- Division Two

DUCKLINGTON 2 (Duthie 33 90)

WOOTTON SPORTS 3 (Spencer 51 78 88)

Att 178

Entry & Programme £4

Ducklington Sports Ground is the kind of place you can drive right past without knowing its there. I should know I spent 3 years as a sales rep in the Witney area and drive along the road from the A40 to Standlake and never once spotted the place. To make things worse I used to visit my friend Matt who once lived in Ducklington and still managed not to spot the place!

The village, just south of Witney you’d think is known for ducks, and yes there is duck pond here. But is appears that Ducklington is actually named after “Ducals’ farm” – the land was owned by Robert D’Oyly part of the successful Norman Conquest in 1066. The village is one of very few places left where you can still see (in season) the Snakes Head Fritillary flower. The local church has a “Fritillary Sunday” event and a local meadow is opened to the public for viewing of the now rare flowers which grow well in damp conditions.

These days the village is the final resting place of former Manchester City, Arsenal and Oxford United defender Tommy Caton who lost his battle with alcoholism in 1993, dying of a heart attack aged only 30.

I’d relaxed, finally, at this point, the last game of the hop. I knew in John Smyth I had someone who wouldn’t just try to host competently, but would really try to do something special. He did, and I spent the preamble before the game wondering why Ducklington hadn’t been first on my wish list, with John as both an ally and involved here it was a obvious move!

I watched as Ducklington didn’t just do cake, they did cheesecake as well, and no one, playing or spectating moved faster than Robyn did to secure the final slice! Then there was the locally produced “Duck Pond” ale which sold out well before kick-off. It meant the players had to make do with a Jägerbomb drinking competition after the game… sorry lads!

Overall it was a fitting finale to an enjoyable event. It was lovely to see an old friend, Phil Annets at all the Saturday games but it took until Ducklington for me to get the chance to spend a little time with him. These days he’s the face of the FA Cup Factfile (as seen on TV) Twitter feed and blog, but back in 2011 he was Press Officer for the North Berkshire League and was a massive help in getting that first North Berks Hop up any running then making the first 5 hops work as well as they did.

It you take the view as I do that the North Berks Hop gave rise to the Witney Hop then the fact that there we were watching a game at Ducklington with a tea and a chunk of cake each was in part through Phil’s efforts. I’ll always be grateful to him, my thanks to him for supporting this event.

The game lived up to the staging even if John was to be disappointed. Both Ducklington and Wootton Sports are working their way back up the Witney League after enduring difficult times, and in a pulsating game both sides probably did enough for a draw to be fair, but a frantic last few minutes saw a goal apiece and a siege of the visitors’ goal. You’d have got your money’s worth if you’d have turned up after 85 minutes.

At the end of it all my first thought was for John. Every the unassuming type there he was taking down the barrier rope, but there was Paul Bircher, league chairman, at the gate clearly waiting for me. I made my first move to thank John, his efforts were way above and beyond what anyone could expect. It was life-affirming stuff, but I needed to see Paul.

It was lovely to be thanked, but if anyone needed thanking it was those 4 wonderful host clubs, who did themselves and their league proud. All I did was provide an opportunity for all parties. So, does anyone fancy doing it again next year?