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Tuesday 11th August 2020 ko 19.00

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WATLINGTON TOWN 0

ARDLEY UNITED DEVELOPMENT 2 (Casbierd 15 Hollister 84)

Att c20

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When the North Berkshire League Hops ended at Appleton in 2017, there was one club that unquestionably missed out, and that was Watlington Town. When I tried to put together the 2018 edition all the other clubs that were left for us to visit either couldn’t host, didn’t want to, or in one instance complained that neither Phil Annets nor I hadn’t asked them to be on the very first hop!

Other than the fact that holding a one game hop doesn’t exactly work, the issue I had with Watlington is that they are on the edge of the North Berkshire League’s catchment area. That comparative isolation, and the fact that we’d visited every single other club nearby, such as Berinsfield or Dorchester made including them impossible. I’d quietly hoped that we’d get a club reform such as Benson AFC or Warborough & Shillingford to pair them with, but that didn’t happen.

So there was unfortunate Watlington ready and willing to host, but without a hop to be involved in. I’d put out the idea that we could include them on the Easter 2019 Hellenic Hop, turning the the Oxfordshire Day that wasn’t into a 4 game day but it was decided that adding a 14th game on to a 4 day event was too much football even for GroundhopUK!

But Watlington have opted this season to shift to the Hellenic League Division 2. Now with my North Berks hat on I’m sorry to lose their first XI but the shift does allow local derbies against Chinnor and Stokenchurch. It also allows for the possibility of including them on next Easter’s Hellenic Hop, but once again the timing is unfortunate – we’ve visited everywhere in the Hellenic nearby apart from Abingdon United. Hopefully we can find a way to include them.

That said, if that happens we will need to work out how to park the extra spectators, even this low key game saw the car park full and the approach road lined with parked cars….. and a tractor! It’s a shame we can’t make use of Watlington Station, just under half a mile away. Sadly the Watlington & Princes Risborough Railway shut to passengers in 1957 with just the section from Risborough still open to Chinnor open as a heritage railway. I know there’s moves to extend the re-opening further, but the small matter of the M40 will make extending out back to Watlington impossible. The old station is still extant, if almost completely overgrown.

Robyn and I decided to keep a low profile at this game, mainly due to wanting to maintain social distancing. We found a spot, and then discovered via Twitter that according to Ardley’s feed the game was meant to be behind closed doors. There was no legal need for it, with both clubs playing off pyramid. Some may view Hellenic Division 2 as Step 7 but as both Moreton and Bourton found when seeking promotion from Hellenic 2 it is not, and they were forced (successfully) to apply to go up. Therefore and since we were already in situ, we stayed put.

We saw an entertaining game where Ardley won, mainly because they had a little more creativity up front. It was played in front of a quite stunning sunset, and the sights and sounds of a thunderstorm that flooded Wheatley 10 miles away but failed even to touch our house another 3 miles beyond that!