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Monday 3rd May 2021 ko 18:00

Thames Valley Premier League: Premier Division

FINCHAMPSTEAD 4 (J Payne 15p Vallance 22 Hunt 73 Day 77)

MARLOW UNITED 1 (Goode 65)

Att c42 at Arborfield Recreation Ground

Free Entry

I still have some affinity for this part of the world even though its been well over twenty years since I lived in Henley-on-Thames. Back then the modus operandi was driving through Wargrave and Twyford to Winnersh, then via Sindlesham to Arborfield. I suppose I associated Sindlesham with the Nirvana Health Spa that the ex-wife seemed to love going to but objected every time the monthly membership payment left her account!

The spa is still there, but these days the more obvious development is sprawling Bearwood Park, Reading FC’s training ground, a vision of security, no photography signs and floodlit pitches. Of course that was a “Luxury” that for years Wokingham Council refused Wokingham & Emmbrook.

In the end Arborfield Recreation Ground seemed something of an antidote to all that excess. There’s just a pitch, a changing room block and an unusual wooden shelter that seemed to be channelling its inner bandstand. This isn’t Finchampstead’s normal home ground; their base at the Sports Club is now given over to cricket, and the Thames Valley Premier League will be playing on until the end of June. On that basis expect to see quite a few articles on their clubs appearing in the next few weeks!

The game was unusual for two reasons, one that being a Bank Holiday I could actually get to one of their 18:00 fixtures without work getting in the way (Can the June fixtures be played a little later please?), and that it pitted two ex-Hellenic League clubs up against each other. United are now back at Gossmore Lane after leaving Marlow FC’s Davis Memorial Ground, so that’s my card marked, the ground is the park clearly visible from the Marlow by-pass. 

But back to Arborfield, and unless you were there perhaps you’re thinking of a pleasant late-spring evening watching a game. No, it really wasn’t like that- it was cold, and it the clouds couldn’t work out whether to dump rain or hail on our heads. I, and around 20 hoppers were thankful for that bandstand and the overhang on the changing room block. A block that wasn’t available to either side, the players had to find cover where they could to get changed. At least we are only a couple of weeks from (hopefully) changing rooms being back in use. 

The teams, though managed to rise above the awful weather and put on an entertaining game. While Finch’s penalty did look to be on the wrong side of soft, the fact was the better side on the night did win the game. You could have said both literally and figuratively that the visitors froze. 

Afterwards I stopped in Henley-on-Thames for a restorative bag of chips. Not everything in the town is impossibly posh, I know a chippy where I can park outside and dash in. Mind you the folks of Lambridge Wood Road (average house price £1.8million), may not have appreciated the cold bloke sat in his car with his chips trying to warm up!