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Saturday 17th April 2021 ko 13.00

Cambridgeshire County League Junior Cup Group F

BARTON MILLS 2 (Walker 45 Sheehan 85p)

missed penalty 71

THE EAGLE (ELY) 3 (Pekala 29 31 Wojtowitz 60)

Att 13 at Barton Mills Village Green 

Entry FREE

For the worst of reasons there were no end of opportunities to watch two games this Saturday. With the funeral of the Duke of Edinburgh scheduled for 3pm clubs were advised by the FA to play their games in such a way as to avoid clashing with it. Many leagues opted for a blanket approach with all games starting simultaneously, but an exception was the Cambridgeshire County League where a significant minority of clubs opted for later kick-offs.

With DCMS and the FA still peddling the line that all games on private land should be played without spectators I followed my rule from the Towcester Town game that I’d only watch a game if the home club was happy for me to be there. I tweeted both clubs, got affirmative tweets back, and the tweet found its way on to a WhatsApp group for Cambridgeshire League players that includes work colleague Karl Booth. He admitted seeing it rather threw him, I assume he’s now having to live down knowing a groundhopper!

Now I’m sure by regular reader understands my strain of OCD that drives my groundhopping. It’s thus, if I pass by a town often enough sooner or later I will want to watch their football team. On that basis it must have been close to inevitable that I’d end up here, the village of Barton Mills is adjacent to the Fiveways roundabout where the A11 produces tributaries off to the likes of Mildenhall, Brandon and Bury St Edmunds. Or putting it less literally its where trips to the eastern end of the Eastern Counties League start; pass the Waffle Shack and you know you’ve broken the back of the journey!

The eagle-eyed amongst you will have spotted that you’re in Suffolk here, and not Cambridgeshire. Well football and county boundaries are seldom easy bedfellows- to the best of my knowledge the North Berkshire League has only one Berkshire-based club in it! But back to Barton Mills, I may have passed by the place a hundred times but you get no sense of the place from the A11. Its a quiet, genteel place, Penicillin inventor Alexander Fleming had a holiday home here, and the church tower and football on the village green seem almost timeless.

The Cambridgeshire League has decided to void its season and use its Senior, Intermediate and Junior Cups as end-of-season competitions. Both sides play in Division 3B putting them in the Junior category, and all three cups are arranged in a World Cup style mini league then knockout final rounds. It gives the clubs in this biggest of leagues enough football to close this disrupted season and folks like me well over a hundred grounds to go at!

The Eagle (Ely) suggests a pub, and may well be their background, but they are a predominantly Polish club (which would explain the Eagle) but play out of Red Lodge, near Mildenhall. What they do have is one of the most active social media presences of any off-pyramid club. It puts those of many semi-professional clubs to shame.

So there we were watching two clubs that a week earlier I’d never looked at in any detail, but they served up a game that was highly entertaining and a credit to both clubs and the league. For me The Eagle just about deserved their win, but I’m sure Barton Mills would point to the missed penalty and argue they were worth at least a point. 

We grabbed lunch afterwards at the excellent Rumbles Fish Bar in Mildenhall. I had the slightly surreal experience of trying to explain some of the finer points of the Royal Funeral to the staff there. I’m not sure it was what the Duke of Edinburgh would have wanted but all told but it was a fine end to the first part of my day.