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Saturday 25th January 2020 ko 14.00

Mid-Oxon Cup Quarter-Final

BRILL UNITED 2 (Price 5 Boiling 75)

ASHTON FOLLY 1 (McPherson 82)

Att 27 at Whitelands Farm Sports Ground, Bicester

Free Entry

I’d wanted to watch Brill for a while. The village has the distinction of both being in Buckinghamshire and having once been on the London Underground but still managing to be a mere 12 miles from Oxford. The football club has an excellent Twitter (@BrillUtd) account, and there’s an obvious vibrancy about them.

I needed to be back home reasonably early and there was the previous weekend’s visits to Sporting Lisbon and Belenenses SAD to take into account. They were two top flight games and such is my contrary nature it meant I fancied a contrast- a game right as grassroots. I’d got it all mapped out in my mind, a lunch at the pub near Brill windmill then a stroll round to the football ground, but then the weather intervened!

With Brill’s pitch waterlogged the game was switched to the new Whitelands Sports Ground, Ashton Folly’s current home. If you like shopping there’s a fair chance you’ve passed near here, the ground is just off the A41 on the edge of Bicester heading in from the M40. More significantly that’s the road that takes the legions of shoppers to Bicester Village outlet shopping centre.

The sports ground opened in 2018 as part of the planning gain that saw the Kingsmere housing development built, expanding Bicester outwards south-west. There’s a perimeter track suitable for running, cycling and wheelchair use, and a large clubhouse that was hosting a wedding reception when I arrived!

Now I’d assumed this game was going to take place on the caged, and floodlit 3G pitch, the game had been moved due to waterlogging after all. But Ashton play on the grass pitch nearby, which was thoroughly playable, and made for better backdrops to my photos!

Half the fun of doing a game on “Just a field” to use a few groundhoppers’ pejorative phrase is getting involved. It was great to speak to referee Andy Hodges and find out that the Mid Oxon Cup is run by the Banbury & Lord Jersey League, and that Ashton are top of the second tier Division One with Brill 7th in Division Two. That and meeting both the sides and confirming that Ashton Folly are the same club as the Ashton Villa I’d watched 7 years ago at Brize Norton.

At grassroots level it doesn’t pay to take too much notice of which division teams are in. Squads change quicker than promotions and relegation and managers often select more on player availability than anything else.

You really wouldn’t have known this was a giant-killing of sorts. It was the kind of gritty yet compelling game you love to watch no matter what the venue, and on a cold windy day that was no bad thing. Brill won it, just about deservedly and I thawed out back in the car driving home.

It was an excellent afternoon’s entertainment, I do pity those who turn their noses up at grassroots level, some of the more enjoyable times I had have been at this level. And you know the best bit? I’ve still got Brill United to visit!