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Tuesday 20th April 2021 ko 18.30

North Berkshire League Division One
EAST HENDRED 4 (Parrott 5p 9p L Eltham 59 B Eltham 82)

HAGBOURNE UNITED 3 (Smith 25secs 67 MacDonald 79)

Att 26 at Mill Lane, East Hendred

Free Entry

My attendance here was due to one thing really, Hendred chairman Steve Mulford invited me! Most will remember the club from their beautifully presented game on the 2015 North Berkshire League hop, the club managing to produce of all things, an Owl display and a quite amazing array of food and drink. It is a matter of regret that I hadn’t been back since.

You’d have to think hard to find a prettier ground in North Berks, (Childrey or Challow maybe?) and Steve Mulford is justifiably proud of the pitch here. I’d go as far as to say it’s one of the few places where the adjoining cricket pitch’s grass is actually inferior to the football’s! But more than anything else it is still a pleasure to sit behind the near goal and take it all in.

The North Berks has dealt with the realities of the UK’s third lockdown in a similar way to the North Bucks & District in that it has reduced its season down to each club facing each other once instead of the usual twice. For a club like Hendred playing into June isn’t an option- the ground switches to cricket in April and the committee that runs the sports ground have seen fit to grant the football club a whole week’s extension to their normal cut off date. It still means that club is staging 3 games a week to get the firsts and reserves games all played.

As for the other options they can be roughly be summarized by reactions to clubs’ vote for the one game formula. Berinsfield expected to win the league so they’re looking at their current 100% league record and looked forward to another title. Their great rivals Saxton Rovers, seeing their title slipping away and have pointed out that that it isn’t the same as it’s not a full season. The problem is they both have a point, which is why there are no easy answers.

I think most watchers of the North Berkshire League expected Berinsfield to be somewhere in the mix, Saxton will regard the season as disappointment, Childrey’s challenge faltered, but Hagbourne’s challenge surprised me. Their firsts have moved into a groundshare at Didcot Town and clearly have made it work for them. They went into this game second, needing to win this game to force a virtual shoot-out for the title at Didcot on the Saturday.

The game kicked off early and those who turned up late missed a remarkable first ten minutes. I think many would have expected a Hagbourne victory but Hendred had taken a 6-1 beating a the hands of Berinsfield and Steve was quite convinced that reverse would provoke a reaction.

He was right, and the result was a game it was a privilege to have witnessed. News came through of Berinsfield rolling in goal after goal at Dorchester  (it finished 11-0) so it became clear that Hendred winning here would come close to sealing the title for Berinsfield.  Hagbourne fought back to equalise but Hendred player-manager Ben Eltham was put through to win the game for his club. Steve Mulford grinned, but I felt the cheers may well have been emanating from around 11 miles north-east.